When The Whale premiered at the 79th annual Venice International Film Festival in early September, the theater’s six-minute standing ovation moved star Brendan Fraser to tears. Now—almost a month before the film’s theatrical U.S. release—A24 has released its first official trailer and we’re beginning to understand why the picture garnered such an impassioned reaction from its Venetian audience.
Clocking in at a modest one minute and three seconds, the brief first look prioritizes the establishment of tone over that of the film’s plot. Set to a dramatic instrumental score with subtle (but moving) rises and falls, the slow-burning promo opens with an image of what appears to be a remote desert dwelling at dawn. The muted, earth-toned color palette captured in the peaceful imagery is carried through clips of (what presumably is) the interior of Fraser’s home. As the trailer continues, laudatory pull-quotes flash between emotional close-ups of the film’s core players. Their sorrowful expressions are intimately framed within a 4:3 aspect ratio. This charming choice of composition places a strong emphasis on character and performance, echoing the buzz heard through the film festival grapevine — which seem to acclaim the film’s raw, tear-jerking performances above all.
Take a look:
Although the trailer itself deals more in atmosphere than story, we do know that the film is sourced from Samuel D. Hunter’s 2012 play of the same title. In Darren Aronofsky’s adaptation, Fraser plays Charlie, a recluse grieving the loss of his lover and the family he abandoned nine years prior. Though it’s been nearly a decade since he last saw her, the film follows Charlie’s attempt to rekindle his fractured relationship with his now-teenage daughter.
The film, heralded as Fraser’s triumphant return to leading roles, has garnered a lot of attention—though not all of it is positive. Some critics have expressed concern over the lead’s use of a fat suit. However, Aronofsky and Fraser have spoken out against these criticisms, calling their film an “exercise in empathy” that strives to tell Charlie’s story with authenticity and care. In this same interview, Fraser discusses the film’s collaboration with the Obesity Action Coalition. According to the actor, the organization consulted the filmmakers in aspects of script, makeup design and performance.
The Whale also stars Sadie Sink, Hong Chau, Ty Simpkins and Samantha Morton. The film arrives in theaters December 9, 2022.
Kathy Michelle Chacón is a Gen-Z writer, academic and filmmaker based in sunny California. When she’s not writing for Paste, Film Cred or Kathychacon.com, you can find her eating pupusas, cuddling with her dog Strawberry or sweating her face off somewhere in the Inland Empire.