Ralph Potts reviews Darren Aronofsky’s The Whale which features Brendan Fraser’s Academy-Award winning performance as withdrawn but sweet-natured English teacher Charlie. Check out his thoughts on the Blu-ray release from Lionsgate Home Entertainment.

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The Review at a Glance:
(max score: 5 )



Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )



Studio and Year: Lionsgate - 2022
MPAA Rating: R
Feature running time: 117 minutes
Genre: Drama

Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC
Video Aspect: 1.33:1
Resolution: 1080p/24

Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Starring: Brendan Fraser, Hong Chau, Sadie Sink, Ty Simpkins, Samantha Morton
Directed by: Darren Aronofsky
Music by: Rob Simonsen
Written by: Samuel D. Hunter based on his play
Region Code: A

Blu-ray Disc release Date: March 14, 2023

"People Are Amazing"


The Whale tells the story of a reclusive English teacher who attempts to reconnect with his estranged teenage daughter.

My Take:

The Whale is based upon Samuel D. Hunter’s play of the same. Hunter wrote the script for the film which has been in works for nearly ten years according to him and director Darren Aronofsky. In terms of scope, it feels very much like a stage play, with essentially all of its scenes taking place in the confines of Charlie’s apartment and, only a handful of characters needed to render its story. It is clearly evident that this is a personal project that speaks to the human condition through not only Charlie’s eyes but, those whose lives he touches.

This is a character driven narrative where each has a fundamental standing within the context of story’s themes which include, morbid obesity/eating disorder, familial strife/abandonment, suicide, loss, and cruelty. It’s interesting to watch how all of these elements are interwoven, revolving around Charlie, both directly and indirectly. Each is simply drawn yet, tonally complex when it comes to how they are perceived through Charlie’s life lens. This is the part that could be easily missed. The film tackles difficult subject matter that, for some, could make it hard to see past.

These are indeed flawed people, each in search of a way to come to terms with the pain that they struggle with on a daily basis. For Charlie, redemption for past misdeeds is the one thing he now has to hope for. Over a five day period we get a glimpse into his life and come to understand, on some level, the choices that have led him to where he is and ultimately, where he is going.

The Whale pulls no punches in its depictions. This is something that I appreciated about it. Yes, it can be hard to watch at times but, its sincerity is obvious. The performances are simply marvelous. Brendan Fraser’s Academy Award is justly deserved and is anchored by the stellar work of Hong Chau and Sadie Sink. The makeup is amazing and assisted in bringing the character of Charlie forward. I watched this film with my wife and we were both captivated and moved by it.

Replay Value:

Parental Guide:

The rating is for language, some drug use and sexual content.

AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100/EXCELLENT = 83-91/GOOD = 74-82/AVERAGE = 65-73/BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.

Audio: 82
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

    • Dynamics:
    • Low frequency effects:
    • Surround Sound presentation:
    • Clarity/Detail:
    • Dialog Reproduction:
    • DSU/DTS Neural:X Rating * (non-rated element): NA

Video: 88
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

    • Resolution/Clarity:
    • Black Level/Shadow Detail:
    • Color Reproduction:
    • Fleshtones:
    • Compression:

The Whale comes to Blu-ray Disc from Lionsgate Home Entertainment featuring 1080p AVC encoded video and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound.

This film utilizes a stylized visual design that is meant to create a period specific aesthetic to support its thematic elements. It was shot on film and, uses an aspect ratio of 1.33:1. Looking at films from a narrow perspective is something that can take a little getting used. It isn’t an issue for me which allowed me to appreciate this nuanced presentation. Contrast is spot on which empowers whites and grays without washing away detail. Whites are punchy and grays are multi-staged and gradational. Blacks are fairly deep, with appreciable depth and dynamic highlights that surface when onscreen with mixed light/dark content.

Being a dialogue driven film the ability to clearly render that aspect is an important element of the soundtrack. This DTS-HD Master Audio presentation in most respects handled dialog reproduction well but, there were instances where it was unintelligible, requiring the use of subtitles to determine what was being said. The surround mix made apropos use of the sound platform to render the films elements. I found it to be subtly engaging as it recreated the many acoustic sounds associated with the environments portrayed onscreen. The soundstage offered a nicely balanced mixture of ambience/background sounds that characterized the mood of the scene. There weren’t any sub bass frequencies contained in the mix however the subwoofer was used to provide low bass emphasis where appropriate.

Bonus Features:
  • People are Amazing: Making The Whale
  • The Sounds of the Sea: Scoring The Whale
  • Digital

Final Thoughts:

The Whale is based upon Samuel D. Hunter’s play of the same. Penned by Hunter and directed by Darren Aronofsky, it is a contemplative and moody character study that explores difficult themes. It’s a powerful and effecting film that features an Oscar-winning performance by Brendan Fraser. It comes to Blu-ray from Lionsgate Home Entertainment featuring solid audio/video mated with a light supplemental set that includes a pair of production featurettes. Due to its subject matter The Whale may not be for everyone but, it is an experience that film enthusiasts shouldn’t miss.

Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Reference Review System:

JVC DLA-NZ7 4K Ultra High-Definition Laser Front Projector
(Calibrated with Calman color calibration software and Portrait Displays C6 HDR2000 colorimeter from Portrait.com)
Stewart Filmscreen - Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16x9 Screen
Seymour A/V Center Stage XD 2.35.1 100” Wide Retractable Screen
Marantz AV7706 Audio/Video Processor
Emotiva XPA-7 Gen 3 Seven Channel Amplifier
Emotiva XPA-11 Gen 3 Amplifier
Panasonic DP-UB820 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
Oppo BDP-203 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
System Controller: Apple iPad/Roomie Remote V6 Universal Remote Control
SVS Ultra Tower Speakers (Gloss Finish)
SVS Ultra Center Channel (Gloss Finish)
SVS Ultra Surrounds (Gloss Finish in Bipolar Configuration)
Dual SVS PC4000 Cylinder Subwoofers
Niles Audio In-Ceiling/In-Wall Series Speakers
Panamax M5400-PM Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) - Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
AC Infinity Aircom T8 Component Cooling Systems