The Whale Parent Guide
A powerfully emotional story, this is not suitable for family audiences or for anyone with body image issues or eating disorders.
Parent Movie Review
Charlie (Brendan Fraser) has found a niche as a professor teaching essay writing to disinterested college students online. This suits him because he weighs 600 pounds and has barely left his apartment in years. Charlie was always a big guy, but when his partner Alan died, his emotions fueled his appetite, with predictable results.
Now Charlie requires regular care from a nurse, Liz (Hong Chau), who comes by to check up on him. Unfortunately, his weight is seriously affecting his health – on last check, his blood pressure clocked in at 248/134. Unless he is admitted to a hospital - an option he steadfastly rejects - he will likely be dead before the end of the week. Before he dies, though, Charlie is desperate to reconnect with his now 17-year-old daughter, Ellie (Sadie Sink), who he hasn’t seen since he left her mother Mary (Samantha Morton) nine years ago. But getting through to Ellie might be harder than Charlie expects.
This film makes frequent reference to Herman Melville’s classic novel, Moby Dick. It’s clear that this is a similar story, with the twist that Charlie is playing both Ahab and the whale – his overeating is a form of self-harm, fueled by emotions that he can’t bear to confront, which have now dictated so much of his life that he can’t imagine changing. And it’s heartbreaking to watch. Charlie is a kind, well-intentioned man trying to make his peace with the hole he’s dug himself into, and the toll that takes on him and those around him is brutal. This is not a feel-good movie. And I wouldn’t recommend watching it over a meal, either.
As far as family audiences go, The Whale is a tough sell. Apart from the harrowing emotional content, there is a fairly sexual scene right at the beginning of the film, and then some serious profanity throughout. Sprinkle in some teen drug use for good measure, and you’ve got a recipe for some difficult conversations with the kids. The bigger issue is the film’s treatment of Charlie’s size, which can be quite cruel at times. This is not a film for anyone with body image issues or eating disorders, and I cannot stress that enough.
Despite that, it’s a powerfully emotional film, albeit one with all the subtlety of a wrecking ball. There’s a strange balance between the disparaging portrayal of Charlie’s body and the immense compassion the film creates for his character, and I’m left wondering if a gentler approach wouldn’t have been more successful. That said, The Whale is still an interesting watch, if you can get through the rough spots.Directed by Darren Aronofsky. Starring Brendan Fraser, Sadie Sink, Ty Simpkins. Running time: 117 minutes. Theatrical release December 21, 2022. Updated December 21, 2022
Watch the trailer for The Whale
Rating & Content Info
Why is The Whale rated R? The Whale is rated R by the MPAA for language, some drug use and sexual content.
Violence: There are references to suicide. A man is seen in varying kinds of medical distress.
Sexual Content: A character watches pornography and masturbates, with limited detail.
Profanity: There are 22 sexual expletives, seven scatological curses , and occasional uses of mild curses and terms of deity in the script.
Alcohol / Drug Use: Adult characters are briefly seen drinking and smoking. A teenager is briefly seen smoking marijuana.
Page last updated December 21, 2022
The Whale Parents' GuideHow are fat people portrayed in media? How have film and television changed our perspective of weight and health? What kind of discrimination exists based on size? How can we change that perspective?
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Precious also deals with obesity, as well as larger social issues. On a more teen-friendly level, you can try Butter, the story of an obese teen who decides to eat himself to death online.
The Whale is also somewhat reminiscent of Leaving Las Vegas, which sees a man determined to drink himself to death.
You can watch the 1950s movie adaptation of Moby Dick starring Gregory Peck and Richard Basehart.