Film Review: “The Whale”

By Clio McConnell

Luna, a male killer whale, was just two years old when he was separated from his family in Nootka Sound, British Columbia. His story is told in “The Whale,” Directed by Suzanne Chisholm and Michael Parfit, which has made a long journey to become a major motion picture. In 2008, “Saving Luna” (an early incarnation of the movie) won the Audience Choice Award at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. Soon thereafter, the film traveled to festivals across the globe, gaining admiration in such far-flung locales as England, Africa, and Japan.

Later, “Saving Luna” was discovered by Eric Desatnik, founder of the Environmental Film Festival at Yale. He shared the film with his friends Ryan Reynolds and Scarlett Johansson, both of whom were captivated by Luna’s story. The two actors, along with Desatnik, became executive producers of the film; Reynolds, born and raised near the story’s setting, agreed to narrate the orca’s tale.

Luna, described in the film as “3000 pounds of muscle and charm,” turns to the people of Nootka Sound for companionship after he loses track of his pod. Orcas, known to be very social creatures, usually stay with their families for life. Somehow, though, Luna got misplaced—“like a child getting lost in a supermarket,” says Reynolds. In his time at Nootka Sound, the young whale befriends researchers, law enforcement officers, tourists, residents, and even dogs. Unfortunately, some experts assert that this friendly contact might not be good for Luna after all. A long battle ensues, upsetting many people as they argue over whether Luna should stay in Nootka Sound.

The tale is touching, and Reynolds’ charming narration is partnered with some lovely footage of Luna and the Canadian scenery. However, too much time is spent on the back-and-forth of the costs and benefits of keeping the whale. The testimonies of Luna’s fans and naysayers are compelling, but often repetitive and sometimes awkwardly filmed. The occasional integration of text is badly executed, so much so that it distracts from the importance of the text.

Despite these unfortunate flaws, “The Whale” is a film that emphasizes the value of friendship and compassion, and for that reason it is worthwhile for audiences of all ages. Director Michael Parfit says his “life had been completely transformed by affection for a little whale,” and after watching this movie, viewers will appreciate that transformation.

Clio is a contributing writer. Contact her at film@nyunews.com

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