We just saw The Whale

Last Friday we got a sneek peek at Darren Arronofsky’s latest movie, The Whale. The Movie stars Fraser who plays Charlie, a man confined to his apartment due to his deteriorating health. With the outside world shut off from him, Charlie is left alone with his thoughts and his regrets. Fraser’s acting is incredible. The determined movements of eating himself to cardiac arrest faster than the joy of just seeing his daughter again can pass,
charlie struggles with even the simplest of actions. Whether it’s picking up a piece of food or reaching for his keys, every movement is a battle. The camera seldom shows anything deviating from the height of view that Charlie is viewing the world from, and there are moments where the camera movements are particularly interesting, where the camera emulates Charlie’s struggles with turning his head around as the people around him talk and move freely around the room, him struggling with the most mundane (to others) pivot of his upper spine and torso to follow along the conversation. All his movements are done with the best of intent, and his kindness really gets through to us.

Trying to pick up the keys after losing them, trying to get out of his chair, it was so easy to empathize with his struggles, and we felt sorry for him. Like he was someone we knew, or could’ve known, or maybe even someone we used to know. The theme of restriction of movement extends to the limitations of his relationships as well. He is estranged from his daughter and has not seen her in eight years. As he nears the end of his life, he becomes obsessed with making amends with her. This isolation and desire for connection is one that many people can perhaps relate to after months of social distancing.

The pizza guy after a while asks Charlie whether he is okay. We never see his face, until the very end. The small ways people reach out to him. The small ways in which he accepts this help, somehow puzzled. His positivity, no matter what.

The Whale is a poignant and timely film that captures the emotional toll of the COVID-19 pandemic, the struggles of an american health care system that fails to provide the basics, the challenges of raising kids, the physical toll of severe obesity and the threat of heart failure. Charlie confronts his own mortality and the relationships that he has neglected in the past. It is a powerful reminder that even in the midst of tragedy, there is still hope for redemption and connection.

Long time, no see.

Restriction of movement.

The avoidance of direct confrontation.

Restriction of movement.

Trying to reach out to his daughter

Restriction of movement

Covid-19 felt like what if the world was one in which everyone lived under each other’s restraining order

Just trying to reach out for a

helping hand
some things you wished you’d said

Restriction of movement

a tiny
How are you?
How have you been?

Restriction of movement

Do you need anything?

Restriction of movement

All he wishes is for people to be honest. To write or say something honest.

Restriction of movement.

Just turning around to speak to someone…

Restriction of movement.

… a small, tiny movement,

Restriction of Movement

… can have great impact.

A scribbled small paper he carries with him and asks his caregiver to read to him, it says

“In the amazing book Moby Dick by the author Herman Melville, the author recounts his story of being at sea. In the first part of his book, the author, calling himself Ishmael, is in a small sea-side town and he is sharing a bed with a man named Queequeg…”

“…and 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.”

– That’s from chapter 32, “Cetology” (2)

And isn’t that what all authors do (3). They try to rewrite the story, retell what happened, and make themselves (or others) feel better about themselves (but really, just themselves). Have you ever felt trapped by your own mistakes? Have you ever struggled to be honest with yourself or those around you? (4) When you end up sobbing and sniffling at the end of a movie, do we ever reflect upon why? “The Whale” is a beautifully crafted film that speaks to the struggles and emotions of our time. It reminds us that even in times of restriction and isolation, we can still find hope and connection.

In the end, The Whale is a powerful meditation on regret, honesty, and human connection. The movie demonstrates through the script (4), acting, direction and careful camera and human movement, that small movements can make big changes in someone’s life. It forces us to confront our mortality and the relationships we may have neglected in the past. Did you reach out to someone lately, someone you’d regret not reaching out to, laying on your death bed? Is there, even in the midst of tragedies, still hope for redemption and connection? With all honesty? Are we conscious of our own tragedy only so God can save us (“from his own sad story?”).


  1. The Whale, Darren Arronowsky , 2023
  2. Cetology, Moby Dick. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cetology_of_Moby-Dick
  3. Moby Dick, Herman Melville, 1851
  4. The Whale, Samuel D. Hunter
  5. Five Plays, Samuel D. Hunter https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25330354-five-plays 2016