Drama featured

Stranger than Fiction and Larger than Life: A TIFF Review of ‘The Whale’

September 13, 2022Ben MK

Best known for his role in The Mummy franchise, not to mention cult classics like Encino Man and Airheads, Brendan Fraser is an actor whose leading man good looks and on-screen charisma made him one of the most famous actors of the late '90s and early 2000s. In director Darren Aronofsky's The Whale, however, Fraser is revealing a whole different side of himself, as he plays a morbidly obese man struggling with his own mortality while attempting to reconnect with his estranged daughter.

An adaptation of the stage play of the same name by Samuel D. Hunter, the film tells the story of Charlie (Fraser), a teacher of online English courses who can't bear to ever show himself on camera to his students. Things weren't always like this for Charlie, though. Once he had a wife named Mary (Samantha Morton) and an 8-year-old daughter named Ellie (Sadie Sink). But after he left his family for Alan, a young man in one of his night school classes who subsequently committed suicide, Charlie couldn't contain his grief and regret and began harming himself through extreme overeating. It's a problem that has gotten so bad that his close friend and personal caregiver Liz (Hong Chau) is begging him to go to the hospital, as she doesn't expect that he'll live to see the next week. However, Charlie refuses to seek medical help, and instead decides to spend his remaining days trying to heal the relationship with now-17-year-old Ellie, who has developed her own self-destructive habits.

Also starring Ty Simpkins, the result is an emotionally affecting, occasionally disturbing and deeply mesmerizing character portrait that lives and dies by Fraser's portrayal. And fortunately, the 53-year-old actor does not disappoint, delivering a powerhouse performance that will no doubt be remembered come awards season. Transformative in every sense of the word, The Whale not only marks Fraser's triumphant return to the big screen; it also proves to be a career best — one that's both well deserved and long overdue.

The Whale screens under the Special Presentations programme at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival. Its runtime is 1 hr. 57 min.

You May Also Like