THE WHALE*CUT TO THE CHASE*
NOTE: This spoiler was submitted by Jeremy
The film begins with somebody getting off a bus and walking down a long road. Not far from there, an English college professor named Charlie (Brendan Fraser) is giving a lecture to his students via webcam, but he pretends that his camera doesn’t work so that his students will not see his appearance.
Charlie is morbidly obese, weighing at 600 pounds after enduring a personal tragedy. While masturbating, he begins to suffer intense chest pains. He begins trying to read an essay about “Moby Dick”, just as a missionary named Thomas (Ty Simpkins), coming from the New Life Church, comes to try and preach the word of God to him. Charlie asks Thomas to read him the essay because he wants it to be the last thing he hears before he dies. Charlie’s nurse and only friend, Liz (Hong Chau), comes over and orders Thomas to leave, as she has disdain for New Life. Liz gets Charlie regulated and urges him to go to a hospital because he is at risk for congestive heart failure with high blood pressure, but he says he cannot since he does not have life insurance.
Charlie consistently orders pizza from a place called Gambino’s and hears from the delivery man, Dan (Sathya Sridharan), but doesn’t interact with him. Charlie usually leaves money in the mailbox while Dan briefly speaks to him from outside before leaving.
Charlie is visited by his estranged daughter Ellie (Sadie Sink), who resents him for leaving her and her mother Mary (Samantha Morton) when she was eight because he engaged in an affair with his student Alan. Ellie states that Mary doesn’t know that she is visiting him. Charlie offers Ellie all of his money ($120,000) if she spends time with him. He also offers to help her with her schoolwork, as she gets in trouble for bullying other students. When Liz finds out Ellie has been there, she scolds Charlie for having her there, saying it’s a bad idea.
Thomas visits Charlie again, and he helps Charlie pick up a key to Alan’s room that he dropped. Liz shows up again, and although she attempts to send Thomas away again, she privately talks to him outside. Liz states that her adoptive father was the pastor of New Life, and Alan was her brother. Overcome with guilt for being gay, Alan committed suicide by jumping off a bridge, which led to Charlie’s binge eating and depression, as well as Liz’s hatred for the church. Despite this, Thomas believes he is there to bring God into Charlie’s life. After Thomas leaves, Liz gives Charlie a sandwich, which he starts choking on until Liz helps him cough up the food.
Ellie continues making visits, but she coldly rebuffs Charlie’s attempts to reconnect with her. When she says that Charlie could have made attempts to stay connected to her throughout her life, he says he tried and also tried to send her and Mary money. Charlie keeps trying to assure Ellie that she is an amazing person.
Thomas visits again after Ellie has given Charlie a sandwich with crushed-up Ambien to make him fall asleep. She smokes weed and gives some to Thomas while also making crude comments to deliberately make him uncomfortable. Thomas states that he used to have a problem smoking weed habitually. Ellie then brings up that New Life stopped having door-to-door missionaries, which forces Thomas to come clean that he left New Life a while ago because he stole money and ran away from home. Ellie records the confession on her phone and also takes pictures of Thomas and Charlie.
Thomas visits Charlie one last time, informing him that Ellie recorded his confession and sent it to his family in Iowa. Instead of reacting angrily, they have forgiven him and invited him to return home. Thomas sees this as a sign to try and convert Charlie, but he rejects the idea. He starts talking to Thomas about his relationship with Alan and the side effects of his obesity, which make Thomas uncomfortable enough to call Charlie disgusting. Charlie sends Thomas away.
While Ellie is with Charlie, Liz brings Mary to the apartment after telling her that Ellie has been visiting. Ellie mentions that Charlie offered to pay her, and Liz says Charlie doesn’t have money. As it turns out, Liz simply did not know that Charlie has been saving money for Ellie, and she reacts angrily because he could have used the money to help himself and get medical attention, so she storms off. Ellie also berates Charlie and tells him to “fucking die already”. Charlie then talks to Mary, initially reminiscing about when they were still married and thinking about a memory where they were at the beach together with Ellie. Mary also tells Charlie that Ellie had always cared for him more than her, calling her a terror for how she treats her classmates and other people, but Charlie disagrees and thinks that Ellie does care for people since she got Thomas to return to his family. Mary also tells him that she once encountered Alan and wanted to confront him over Charlie’s affair with him, but she just helped him with groceries without letting him know who she was. As Mary leaves, Charlie tearfully tells her he just needs to know he did one thing right with his life.
Charlie orders pizza again and goes outside to get it, where Dan sees him for the first time and appears to react with surprise and disgust. This leads to Charlie experiencing a binge-eating episode before he vomits. He then sends a profane email to his students, telling them to disregard the writing assignments and write something honest.
Charlie gives one last lecture as he tells the students he is being replaced for what he told them. He reads some of their honest entries, telling them that their thoughts matter more than the course itself. He then turns the webcam on to show himself to the students before he throws the laptop against the fridge, shattering it.
Liz returns to Charlie’s apartment after feeling guilty for leaving him. However, they both know he is close to death. When Ellie comes back, Liz says with tears in her eyes that she will wait downstairs. Ellie is angry because Charlie switched her essay, causing her to fail. It is revealed that the “Moby Dick” essay that he had Thomas read him was an essay that Ellie wrote in 8th grade. Before she storms out again, Charlie tells her that she is perfect and requests that she read him the essay. She does so, and he begins to walk over to her without his walker, as she had earlier dared him to do. Ellie tearfully reads the essay as Charlie comes closer to her. He then appears to die, with his spirit rising to Heaven.
The last thing we see is Charlie’s final thoughts, being the memory of him with Ellie and Mary at the beach.
Charlie is a morbidly obese English college professor, a result of his binge eating after his partner Alan committed suicide. His only friend is his nurse Liz, who urges him to get medical help or he will be dead soon. Charlie also attempts to reconnect with his estranged daughter Ellie, who resents him for leaving her and her mother Mary for Alan.
Charlie is also visited by a missionary named Thomas, whom Liz dislikes because he comes from a church where her father was the pastor, and Alan, who was her brother, killed himself because of religious guilt. Thomas has a brief encounter with Ellie, confessing to her that he stole money from his family's church in Iowa. She records the confession and sends it to his family, but they forgive him and invite him home. Thomas sees this as a sign that Charlie can be converted, but he rejects it after Thomas makes unflattering comments about Charlie's sexuality and weight.
Charlie has one last meeting with Mary after she finds out Ellie has been seeing him behind her back. He also has one final meeting with his students after he tells them to disregard their assignments and write honest statements about themselves, knowing he will be replaced and allowing them to see him at last since he usually kept his webcam off.
Knowing he is close to death, Liz visits Charlie before his time is up, and Ellie goes to confront him because he switched her school essay with an 8th grade essay she wrote on "Moby Dick". Charlie assures Ellie that she is amazing and asks her to read him the essay. As she does so, he walks over to her without his walker, and he dies, with his last thoughts being a memory of himself at the beach with Ellie and Mary.