You Know How This Ends: Sad Tale of an Orphaned Orca in The Whale


The Whale
Directed by Michael Parfit and Suzanne Chisholm
Opens September 23

Trailing in the gory wake of Shark Night 3D is this gentle, Bambi-level-sad documentary about an orphaned killer whale named Luna who never harmed anybody and only wanted to be loved. Separated from his pod near Vancouver Island, Canada, he begged for human contact and play, posed for photographs, nuzzled boats, frolicked with logs and buoys, allowed children to pet him, and even enjoyed tongue scratchings without ever biting anyone. Can you guess the tragic outcome? Of course you can, because Luna’s story was widely reported last decade. If your children love animals, by all means, take them to see The Whale. If you appreciate gorgeous scenery, the movie doubles as a picture postcard for the region. If you simply want to indulge in warm-and-fuzzy scenes of whale petting, this movie is also for you. What it is not, however, is remotely new. Orca-phile filmmakers Michael Parfit and Suzanne Chisholm, married ex-journalists who should know better, omit the dates of their story, as if it happened just yesterday. And while they fluff up the conflict between the “no touching” feds and Luna-besotted locals, all parties are simply too polite, decent, and Canadian for any real drama. And though Luna’s demise isn’t shown on camera, the film still packs an extra dollop of pathos: It’s narrated by Vancouver’s favorite son, Ryan Reynolds, and co-produced with Scarlett Johansson, who recently divorced him. Now that’s sad.

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Christine Giannini
Christine Giannini

Mr. Miller seems to be so obsessed with celebrity divorces that he lost his focus on the film. Apparently he's seen a lot of films documenting young Salish Sea orcas that I missed (NOT) so I have to disagree that this documentary does, in fact, provide a very new glimpse into the life of one such young whale. I'm not sure what might have impressed Mr. Miller, perhaps a film on the Ryans/Johansson marriage and its demise, with dates, of course.

Mike Parfit
Mike Parfit

Just a note: This review was written for original publication in Seattle, where, as the reviewer correctly points out, the story was widely reported for several years, since it took place in that fine city's back-yard ocean.

Yet the review was imported, without much editing, to New York, where the story is virtually unknown and I suspect human interactions with wild killer whales are at least novel, if not entirely new. So in this town the review acts, without warning, directly as a spoiler.

Given that the ending is headlined here, I have to say, as the film's editor, this is OK. The film is not about an ending. The film is about an extraordinary life, not a death, and is less like a tragedy than an Irish wake, in which you laugh and cry and wind up glad you had a chance to know the life you're celebrating.

And, you know, I lived through it, and it still feels as if happened just yesterday to me. I hope it always will.

Is that being too Canadian about this review that made such a pretty green splat on Rotten Tomatoes? Maybe so.

Mike Parfitco-director, The Whale


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