Studio A24 is known for making offbeat, even weird movies. So is director Darren Aronofsky. They paired up in the making of “The Whale,” but the film they have produced is not offbeat or weird.

“The Whale” begins with an online college English class. The center space in the digital meeting platform is blacked out. This is the space where the instructor, Charlie (Brendan Fraser), should appear.

In the chat, a student asks why the instructor never appears. Charlie responds that the camera on his computer is broken.

However, the true reason is that Charlie is a morbidly obese person who weighs close to 600 pounds. He is homebound, unable to walk without a walker and dependent upon his friend, Liz (Hong Chau) to care for him and do his shopping.

Charlie has congestive heart failure. The state he finds himself in is something he readily admits is of his own doing.

We watch him go through the days of the story wanting one thing: to reconnect with his daughter Ellie (Sadie Sink).

When Ellie was eight, Charlie left his wife Mary (Samantha Morton). He did so because he realized he was gay.

A character of the story we do not see on the screen is Alan, Charlie’s now-deceased partner. Why Alan is dead and how it connects to another character of the story is what caught my interest.

Thomas (Ty Simpkins) is a missionary from New Life Church. He comes into Charlie’s life at the beginning of the movie as he “cold calls” Charlie to talk to him about salvation.

New Life Church’s pastor is father to both Alan and Liz. Liz was adopted, and she hates her father and the church.

Alan was once a missionary for the church, but he left when he fell in love with Charlie. The fact that Alan is dead can be traced to his upbringing and the guilt he felt over leaving the church.

In one scene, Thomas comes to Charlie with tracts that he wants Charlie to read. Charlie says he has read everything that New Life published. He also tells Thomas he has read the Bible through twice, and he thinks the story of the Bible is not for him because he sees God as not being loving.

Liz makes it clear to Thomas that she wants him to leave Charlie alone who she says is not a candidate for salvation.

All the while, Charlie shows his belief that every person is amazing in his/her own way.

Ellie seems hostile, and her mother thinks she is literally demonic. Yet, Charlie thinks she is wonderful and needs to be acceptable as she is.

Brendan Fraser is outstanding in this role. His transformation into being a person of such girth, with all the physical restraints presented in the character, was a wonder to see. He wrings out every ounce of sympathy for his character.

My takeaway from this story is that our version of faith and salvation does not fit every person.

There was a time when I was an extremely large person, weighting well over 300 pounds. One of the great lies I knew was, “One size fits all.” Even saying, “one size fits most” does not help.

The way that Christianity is presented to Charlie and his experience of it is toxic. All he saw of it was the dark side, where everyone is sure of their view and their view was presented as normative for every person.

This fits into the “He Gets Us” ad campaign currently being presented on U.S. television. Jesus is said to get us. Jesus knew wrongful judgement that was directed at him from religious authorities.

Charlie and the Charlies that are in our world need to hear that message.

Thomas wants Charlie to be his “get.” He wants to get Charlie saved. But the “bait” that Thomas uses will not attract Charlie.

Thomas may be a fisher of people, but good fishermen will tell you that you need to change your bait from time to time.

MPPA Rating: For language, some drug use and sexual content. 

Director: Darren Aronofsky

Writer: Samuel D. Hunter (based on his play)

Cast: Brendan Fraser as Charlie; Sadie Sink as Ellie; Hong Chau ad Liz; Ty Simpkins as Thomas; Samantha Morton as Mary.

The movie’s website is here.

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