“The Whale”

“The Whale”

Picture by Kennedy Starr

“…I felt saddest of all when I read the boring chapters that were only descriptions of whales, because I knew that the author was just trying to save us from his own sad story, just for a little while….” 

“The Whale” is the story of Charlie: a 600-pound, gay English teacher and his last five days of life. His entire world is within the walls of one apartment. He teaches remotely and only speaks with one person, his friend Liz. In his last five days, he sets out to reconnect with his estranged 17-year-old daughter Ellie in any way he can. 

Leaving the theater in tears and a wreck, I realized how special Charlie is. Despite his flaws and the cruelty of those around him, he loves, no questions asked, and he smiles. Ellie can scream at him to die, and he tells her how incredibly proud of her he is. 

Brendan Fraser, Sadie Sink, Ty Simpkins, and Hong Chau’s performances are breathtaking. Darren Aronofsky’s vision is a kaleidoscope of beauty. This talented cast and crew have created a story truly one of a kind. 

In Charlie’s apartment, bonds are mended: Ellie and Charlie, Charlie and his ex-wife Mary, Ellie, and Thomas (a local church mission boy), Liz and Charlie. And the little bird who sits outside of Charlie’s window eating apples.

“The Whale” makes you consider your own life. It made me think about the relationship I have with my parents. The behaviors of Charlie and those around him remind us all of an enabler. Someone wronged, someone lost, someone bitter, and someone who is alone. 

“The Whale” is not just a story of a dying man. It’s a story about love, compassion, religious trauma, pain, and forgiveness. There’s not many words or sentences I can use to encapsulate this movie. It was one of the most beautiful movies I have seen. 

Charlie is filled with self-loathing, guilt, and pain. Yet, in return he gives light. Charlie believed that people were incapable of not caring. That people are amazing. 

Throughout the movie, Charlie demands honesty from his online students and Ellie. Through helping her with her schoolwork over the five days, Charlie’s efforts force the pair to be honest—the white-hot kind that doesn’t stop to consider the right words. It’s raw and real. Ellie tells him exactly what his leaving did to her, and he gets to tell her how much he loves her. 

I think the crucial part of this story is that Charlie got to say all the things he never got the chance to. In five days he was forced to finally own up to how he treated his family and friends. He had to understand the death of his lover; he couldn’t hide from it anymore. He had to face his eating problems and show his face to his students. He got to say how sorry he was. He got to say goodbye to Liz. He was at peace. In the end, he got to hear that great essay one last time like he always wanted and hear the soft waves of the sea. 

I am destroyed by this story. I am touched by this story. I am in love with this story.