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‘The Whale’ Cast And Character Guide: Everything About The Major Characters In Darren Aronofsky’s Film

While teaching us how to structure a good essay, our instructors in college taught us that it should be circular; that is, the conclusion should somehow make a roundabout journey to the point from which it started. Darren Aronofsky’s “The Whale” reminded me of that particular lesson. The film begins and ends with death looming large over the plot and an essay on Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick” being read out loud. We did not learn till the end of the film who is the author of that fantastic essay, or why does that particular essay bears so much importance for the protagonist Charlie.

Charlie, in the film, is not just grappling with obesity but also lonesomeness, depression, and the grief of losing his partner. If someone walks into “The Whale” expecting something as unnerving and spine-chilling as the spectacles in “Black Swan” or “Mother,” or if you are expecting a psychedelic experience like the one we got from “Requiem for a Dream,” I am sorry to disappoint, but there would be no such unitary thought or feeling that would guide your understanding of the film. There is no one character, in my opinion, with whom you would relate. Charlie can be a metaphor for the modern man who lives with all his urban angst, struggling to maintain a healthy lifestyle and avoiding fast food. The United States has been struggling with obesity as a leading health problem. In the recent past, obesity has become a worldwide health hazard, triggering other diseases like heart problems, diabetes, hypertension, etc.

While the cause of this menace can be traced to the country’s faith in capitalism and the flourishing fast-food chains, the film does not directly preach against the system. Rather, it is a psychological meditation on what solitude can do to you. Voracious eating disorders can be triggered by sadness and depression. Food often becomes our best friend. It is sure to invoke your lockdown memories when lack of activities and freedom from the outside world forced you to make repeated trips to and from your refrigerator and pantry, and most of us kept gorging on unhealthy packaged food in the dearth of fresh produce.

In Charlie’s world, which is a small, dimly lit apartment, there is very little room for mobility, and his depression over losing his gay partner Alan Grant forced him to develop a strange, unconditional friendship with food. This obviously had a direct impact on his body and affected all his relationships. His unprecedented engorgement made his mobility even more confined. The film successfully portrays how patriarchy, which only appreciates a cis-heterosexual, well-built white man, has doubly marginalized a talented, knowledgeable human being like Charlie. The film is based on a play of the same name by Samuel D. Hunter.

“The Whale” is a spectacle and exactly the kind of film you would associate with A24. It garnered a lot of accolades all across the globe and was a fan favorite at various film festivals, not only because it was a good film but also because it marked the resurrection of Brendan Fraser’s acting career. His performance in the film is a tough act to follow, but everyone on the cast deserves mention. So, let’s roll the cast list and analyze the characters they embody in the list given below:

Spoilers Ahead

Brendan Fraser As Charlie

Charlie is an obese, unhealthy English teacher from a town in Idaho. He gives students online English lessons, but the webcam on his computer is always switched off. His students keep complaining about him not fixing his camera without knowing that he is keeping it switched off for the purpose of not showing his enormous body to the world. Obviously, the world would not accept someone like Charlie when they can’t even accept someone who doesn’t fit the world’s parameters of a perfect, proportionate size. Therefore, Charlie is an absolute recluse with no outdoor activities. His depression has forced him to eat his way to death. We meet him in the film at a point in his life from which there is no coming back.

“The Whale,” in my opinion, has a very disturbing beginning, enough to demand and hold the audience’s attention for the next two hours. Charlie, seated on a sofa in his whale-like body, undergoes congestive heart failure. He believes that he is dying and tries to call up his nurse friend Liz, who generally takes care of him. But he doesn’t die at that moment; he only stays alive for a week to write his own story for the world to watch and contemplate. Eventually, we learn that Charlie was once married and had a daughter named Ellie, who is now a raunchy teenager. Charlie had been estranged from his family after he fell in love with one of his students at a night course named Alan Grant. In due course of the film, we realize that Alan was Liz’s elder brother and that he was attached to the New Life Church. It was probably his Christian guilt over being involved in a same-sex relationship that forced him to commit suicide. His suicide, in turn, caused Charlie to spiral into an unhealthy hellhole.

There is a strong Christian motif interwoven with the plot of the film. Your mind keeps on wondering about the seven Christian sins that we had earlier observed in David Fincher’s film “Seven.” How can we forget the iconic opening scene that shows an obese dead body, pale and blue, bursting out of a chair? A young man named Thomas tries to save Charlie. But the only problem is that he is beyond saving now. What attracts the audience to Charlie’s character is probably his positivity in trying to find a silver lining in his messy life. He emerges as a concerned father who left all his money for his daughter, Ellie.

Brendan Fraser plays the part of Charlie in the film. He is the quintessential 90s heartthrob whose acting capabilities were either kept limited or unexplored when he became the leading man in films like “The Mummy Returns,” “Journey to the Center of the, etc. “The Whale” marks Fraser’s reentry into the race for winning an Oscar, and it is high time that he is paid his due.

Sadie Sinks As Ellie

Ellie is Charlie’s seventeen-year-old estranged daughter. She blames her father for walking out on her and her mother because he was in love with his student. She is raunchy like every other teenager her age is supposed to be. In her initial encounter with her father after eight long years, she calls him disgusting—not because he is fat but for what he did to her when she was a child. It made her realize how mean everyone on this earth actually is. But Charlie loved his daughter and believed that her essay on “Moby Dick” was his ticket to salvation. He manages to declare to Ellie that she is probably the best accomplishment of his life.

Sadie Sink is fantastic as Ellie, channeling some of her Mad Max angst from season 2 of Netflix’s “Stranger Things,” which is also the most notable project on her resume.

Ty Simpkins As Thomas

Thomas is a young preacher from New Life Church who tries to save Charlie by showing him the way of God, but his efforts only make it clear that, in reality, no matter how much you try, you cannot truly save anyone if that person does not want to save himself.

Ty Simpkins is a young and upcoming actor who has been part of some huge films like “Jurassic World,” “Iron Man 3,” “Insidious,” and “Avengers: Endgame.”

Hong Chau As Liz

Liz is Charlie’s nurse and probably his only friend. She tries to convince Charlie to go to the hospital when he suffers heart failure, but Charlie refuses to do so because he doesn’t have proper health insurance. Liz selflessly helps Charlie and positively cares for him even though she knows his destination is just a dead end.

“The Whale” has received multiple nominations for the 95th Academy Award, and we are all rooting for Brendan Fraser to win his first Oscar.

See more: ‘The Strays’ Cast And Character Guide, Explained: Everything About The Major Characters


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