By Mark Fields

The Whale, is, in many ways, a painful film to watch. Its story focuses on the crushing sadness of the main character – Charlie, an online literature professor – as he struggles with personal loss, fractures in the family, and his own resulting morbid obesity. Unable (or unwilling) to take control of his health and life, Charlie seeks instead to reconcile with his estranged teenage daughter Ellie (Sadie Sink) while he can. Brendan Fraser, once a matinee idol in films such as The Mummy and George of the Jungle, is heartrending as Charlie, and the supporting players including Sink and Hong Chau as his friend and nurse give resonant performances. But they can’t overcome the frustrating tonal swings in the narrative or the manipulative direction of Darren Aronofsky.