Director: Darren Aronofsky
Cast: Brendan Fraser, Sadie Sink, Hong Chau, Ty Simpkins, Samantha Morton, Sathya Sridharan
Where: Theatres near you
With several nominations for the Academy Awards 2023 under its belt, this film is sure to soar one’s expectations. Striking with many familiar notes about mending broken relationships, this film is a heart-wrenching tale of redemption where a father struggles to reconnect with his daughter and other dear ones despite his life-threatening conditions.
This film, scripted by Samuel D. Hunter, is based on his 2012 play which shares the same name. The title used as a metaphor for the size and shape of its protagonist is an affecting drama concerning a morbidly obese man weighing several hundred pounds. He, just like a beached Whale lying on the shore, is bent on self-destruction and is close to achieving his goal.
The protagonist is Charlie (Brendan Fraser), a married but gay English professor teaching online with his camera turned off. He does so to hide his appearance. He is addicted to food to soothe his anxiety, disappointment, and mostly unprocessed grief. He frequently orders pizza to which he and the delivery guy Dan (Sathya Sridhan) follow a usual routine. The delivery guy leaves the pizza on the porch, takes the money from the mailbox, and leaves without interacting with Charlie.
Charlie fends off the help of his concerned nurse and indulgent friend Liz (Hong Chau), who also happens to be the sister of his ex-lover Allan, entertains the salvation sermons of Thomas (Ty Simpkins), a local missionary at the New Life Church, and is desperate to reconnect with his long-estranged daughter Ellie (Sadie Sink). He reaches out to her, only to find a viciously sharp-tongued wildly unhappy teen.
Why Charlie is in this situation forms the crux of the narrative.
The script is designed craftily. The drama, at times, appears contrived and in an exceptional and frustratingly stagy manner. There is tension, close and upfront, in every frame. This is what keeps you glued to the screen. Also, facets of the characters unravel shrewdly, periodically focusing on the protagonist’s emotional journey.
The writing keeps you amused. But most importantly, it does not go about moralising about eating disorders. Devoid of cynicism and irony, the premise of the film is both hopeful and heart-breaking, revealing that however insignificant we are, we all leave behind a legacy.
Set almost entirely in Charlie’s dimly lit and dank apartment, the director conjures an atmosphere that illustrates Charlie’s fatalistic sense of being trapped. In this small space, you notice how the other characters are incapable of connecting to one another as they refuse to acknowledge the undercurrents that are driving them to their miseries.
On the acting front, Brendan, despite his ungainly sight in his prosthetic suit, delivers a spell-binding performance of a sweet-natured guy who even apologises for wanting to die. His eternally melancholic gaze and grimaces do not hide the pain caused over the years. On-screen, he shares a unique bond with Chau, who plays Liz. Their on-screen chemistry is endearing and palpable. Ty Simpkins and Sink appear contrived, and the same is the case with Samantha Morton, who essays his ex-wife and Ellie’s mother.
Overall, the film is fascinating to watch. It is enlightening and inspiring despite the ending being a tad melodramatic.
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