The Whale Explained: What’s Up With the Ending?

Review of the movie

On March 2, Darren Aronofsky’s new film “The Whale” finally opened in cinemas. The opinions of critics and viewers about what they saw were somewhat divided, and the tape itself became a resonant event in the cinema, which is not at all surprising for Aronofsky’s projects. In the review below, we will try to understand why it is better to listen not to critics, but to your own heart when watching The Whale.

The Whale movie meaning

Genre drama
Directed by Darren Aronofsky
Starring Brendan Fraser, Sadie Sink, Hong Chow, Ty Simpkins, Samantha Morton
Premiere cinemas, digital services
Release year 2023
IMDb site

A lonely man named Charlie suffers from catastrophically overweight and related ailments. His blood pressure has jumped to dangerous levels, but the patient refuses to be hospitalized, allegedly due to lack of health insurance and money. The only person who somehow tries to help the sufferer is his friend, a nurse, Liz.

The 270-kilogram recluse teaches online courses on writing literary essays, but turns off the camera so students don’t see his deplorable condition. Charlie rarely gets up from the sofa and has long been accustomed to his difficult position in every sense. Once he left his wife and 8-year-old daughter Ellie for the love of another man. After the latter’s death, his own life ended as well.

Review of the movie

But suddenly, on the doorstep of the abandoned apartment of the main character, first the young missionary Thomas appears, and later his 17-year-old daughter, who is angry with the whole world. From this moment on, Charlie will try with all his might to establish a relationship with the child, at the same time eating stress with double pizzas and giant sandwiches.

The plot of “The Whale” is based on the 2012 play of the same name by Samuel D. Gunter. He also worked on the script of the tape, in which a distinct theatricality is literally felt. Matthew Libatik’s camera rarely ventures beyond Charlie’s humble abode, and the distribution of days of the week resembles acts. At the same time, great emphasis is placed on the acting performances, which look very powerful here.

It is difficult to recognize the handsome Rick O’Connell from the series of adventure blockbusters “The Mummy” behind the complicated make-up. But the role in “The Whale” is rightly called the best in Brendan Fraser’s filmography and his “return to big cinema.” Despite the upheavals in his personal life (divorce from his wife, death of his mother), which at one time affected his career as an actor, he is now deservedly triumphant.

Review of the movie

For the role of Charlie Fraser, he was awarded with a 6-minute standing ovation at the 79th Venice Film Festival, where the premiere of “The Whale” took place. Because of this, the actor could not hold back the tears in his eyes.

Later, he was nominated for the “Golden Globe”, “Oscar” and BAFTA, and the other day he bypassed tough competitors and took the prize of the Screen Actors Guild of America.

In one of the interviews, Aronofsky noted that it was important to preserve the authenticity of Fraser’s acting, because makeup could interfere with this. Brendan himself admitted that his overlay alone took no less than six hours. However, as we can see, all efforts turned out to be absolutely not in vain. It is very gratifying that Fraser’s acting work has received such great recognition.

While watching, analogies with another film of the director – “The Wrestler” are suggested. There, another Hollywood veteran was successfully proving that he was worth something, and his hero was also in a miserable situation and trying to reconcile with his daughter. And in general, the characters of many of the director’s films are somewhat freaks, and to a greater extent internally than externally. Marginals, unable to cope with their demons, appeal to the audience’s sympathy.

Darren himself is often criticized for abusing fake sentimentality and superficial symbolism. It is worth mentioning at least the previous film of the director “Mother!” with its gross-as-Charlie-sandwiches religious metaphors delivered straight to the forehead.

However, it seems that Aronofsky himself deeply resents all these accusations, because he stubbornly goes to the goal, and his works always receive a sincere audience response in one way or another. The “Whale” looks especially revealing in this context. It has everything that some people love about Darren’s repulsive yet endearing cinematography, and others hate.

Review of the movie

Straightforward allusions, this time to “Moby Dick”, quotations from the Bible and self-pleasure with gay porn are used quite calmly here. Brendan Fraser’s infinitely kind and sad eyes with the hypertrophied, sweaty body of his Charlie. A leisurely chamber story with a cathartic ending. It is absolutely impossible to remain indifferent.

The Bible becomes one of the main topics of local dialogues. No wonder the end of the story takes place on Friday: Aronofsky, once again, is true to himself in terms of biblical allusions. True, the story line with the missionary boy, who seems to be trying to help the despairing professor, seems superfluous, but it does not spoil the overall impression.

Heavy lead clouds appear in the first frames of the film, and already in the full-fledged debut scene, where the online lecture takes place, the black square of the switched-off camera stands out in the center of the screen. It will gradually increase, just like the chasm inside the main character. It will mostly rain outside the window all the time. The bird that Charlie feeds will be almost the only reason for him to barely smile.

Review of the movie

But as a result, all masks will be torn off, the time will come for valuable openness, and the empty dark spot will disappear forever. Later, bright glimpses of sunlight will enter the dim room for the first time. This will mean that it is never too late to make another effort on yourself, to forgive and be forgiven, to believe in a miracle.

“The Whale” is an endlessly sad allegorical movie that can cause a real emotional surge. But at the same time, to demonstrate that even in the darkest times it is worth looking for light and hoping for a glimmer of hope.

Pros: Brendan Fraser’s unquestionably outstanding performance, also very good performances by Hong Chau and Sadie Sink from “Strange Wonders”, strong emotional component, Aronofsky’s cinematic tropes, just quality drama, if you look at the film purely from a genre perspective Cons: uncertain storyline character Ty Simpkins (small from “Iron Man 3”) Conclusion:

“The Whale” should be watched by all fans of Darren Aronofsky’s work, as well as those who appreciate excellent acting and are ready for inner experiences

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