Charly (Brendan Fraser) is morbidly obese. It weighs nearly 300 lbs. and each movement costs him a superhuman effort. His house is littered with handles and cables that help him lie down in bed, bathe or simply get up. He uses a walker to walk, but spends most of the day sitting on the couch.
Charlie is an English Literature professor who teaches from home, video chatting, claiming his computer’s camera isn’t working to hide his appearance. To students, busy writing themes and dissertations, try to teach honesty above all style. His days are punctuated by meals, television shows, visits from a nurse friend who tries in vain to convince him to be hospitalized.
Aware that his days are coming to an end, Charlie tries to rebuild his relationship with his daughter. Elijah (the Sadie sink of stranger things), a rebellious and intractable teenager who holds her in contempt and resentment for having abandoned her and her mother, more than ten years earlier, for the benefit of one of her students.
The cinema of Darren Aronofsky (The black swan, Requiem for a Dream) has always been split in two: on the one hand, maximal systems, fantastic allegories, a disproportionate gaze in the service of colossal ambitions (Fountain, Mother!), on the other, provincial ballads, the poetics of losers and the elegy of defeat. The paradox is that, just as in The wrestlerit is in this second version, closed in two rooms, that his cinema finds a grandiose epic vein, a vein that in films like Noah instead, it misses completely.
And just like in The wrestler, The whale recount a broken, adrift man struggling with self-shame as he tries to reconnect with his daughter. Brendan Fraser, who had to wear over 300 pounds of prosthetics for the role and whose personal story vaguely echoes the protagonist’s condition, plays most of the film in one room, doing a job of exceptionally expressive . In Charlie they coexist a huge and unsightly body, and a very sensitive soulin respect of which the feelings of guilt and the pains of the past, the same family fracture, have not affected the trust in others and the belief that healing tools are hidden in thought and speech, the greatest possibility of reconnecting with the world.
Like a monster hidden in a cave, which when you stani reveals itself as the most defenseless creature, the protagonist of The whale – distorted, exhausted, disarmed by his past, clinging to his present – he is together aesthetic, narrative and moral question. Many burdens of the conservative gaze coexist within him: weight, homosexuality, the stigma of betrayal in the bourgeois family. The recomposition of ours “disgust” (“Do I disgust you?Charlie often asks his visitors, all seemingly eager to “save him”), passes by acceptance of one’s freedom to live, love and die, beyond any social framework, beyond any common norm, beyond any appearance.
Le petit miracle du film, which is partly by Aronosfky and largely by Fraser (as well as the author of the text Samuel D. Hunter) is to make this disgust, this refusal, the matter of a very strong empathic bond, dissolving any reserve in a deep and lasting emotion.
Photo: Pictures of Protozoa
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