Brendan Fraser is magnificent in the challenging role of an obese and solitary teacher in The Whale, undoubtedly one of the best films of the year.
Fraser, who was once one of Hollywood’s top earners from comedies and blockbusters like The Mummy, emerged from semi-obscurity to deliver the finest work of his career. He’s been nominated for Best Actor at this year’s Oscars.
He piled on the weight to reach 136 kilos for the role of Charlie – and even then he had to add another 136 kilos in a brilliantly designed prosthetic suit which took him up to six hours to put on.
Charlie lives alone in a two-bedroom apartment in Idaho. He teaches writing to online college students, keeping his own laptop camera turned off so his students cannot see his physical condition.
Charlie’s only visitor is his friend and caregiver Liz (Hong Chau), who warns him to no avail that he will die if he does not go to hospital. At one stage he has a heart attack; then he nearly chokes as he wolfs down his pizza. He can barely heave himself up out of his chair.
Then the young evangelist Thomas (Ty Simpkins) from the New Life Church turns up, determined to save Charlie, though Charlie has no interest in being saved.
He has one great ambition – to reconcile with his angry 16-year-old daughter Ellie (Sadie Sink), who he has not seen since he walked out on her and her mother Mary (Samantha Morton) eight years ago.
Gradually we learn why Charlie is so depressed and so careless of his own welfare.
All the action takes place in the apartment, but thanks to the fine direction by Darren Aronofsky and cinematography by Matthew Libatique, the film is never slow or boring.
The script was written by Samuel D. Hunter, based on his own stage play.
All the performances are excellent, particularly Sadie Sink as the defiant teenager who says she hates everyone.
The Whale opens on Thursday, February 2 at Luna Leederville, Luna On SX, Luna Outdoor and Camelot Outdoor, with advance screenings from Thursday, January 26 to Sunday, January 29
Watch the trailer…