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The Crack Magazine

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The Whale

Director: Darren Aronofsky

Stars: Brendan Fraser, Hong Chau, Sadie Sink, Ty Simpkins, Samantha Morton

A fine central performance from Brendan Fraser elevates this flawed drama adapted by Samuel D. Hunter from his own play. Fraser is Charlie, a reclusive and severely obese teacher living in a dank apartment who makes ends meet conducting writing lessons via his laptop. He’s also eating himself to death. Ashamed of his appearance he tells his students that his webcam is not working, so his only real contact with the outside world is via his health worker and friend Liz (Chau, excellent). When Liz tells him that he may only have a week to live if he does not change his ways, Charlie reaches out to his estranged seventeen-year-old daughter Ellie (Sink from ‘Stanger Things). Ellie is still very angry about her parents’ divorce, but when Charlie offers to help with her essays she eventually agrees to spend time with him. The ‘spectacle’ of Charlie lumbering about his room feels ill-judged and sensationalist. Thankfully Fraser, exhibiting his trademark sweetness and tenderness, is able to overcome the mountain of latex he is encased in and the digital tweaks. Chau is equally impressive as his no-nonsense plain-speaking friend. But the picture feels narratively moribund and stagey with its stygian single setting, story contrivances and leftfield character revelations.

David Willoughby

Follow David on Twitter @DWill_Crackfilm