Analysis of The whale

Screenplay Rating:


Executive Summary

  • The screenplay effectively explores themes of mortality, isolation, family, and regret, adding depth to the story.
  • The scenes involving Charlie's physical and emotional struggles provide a strong emotional core.
  • The dialogue is generally well-written and effectively conveys the tension and emotions between the characters.
Areas of Improvement
  • Some scenes feel repetitive and could benefit from tighter pacing.
  • The character arcs, particularly the relationship between Charlie and Ellie, could be further developed to create a stronger emotional payoff.
  • There are gaps in the narrative, particularly in terms of character development and unresolved plot threads.
  • The screenplay could benefit from clearer indications of genre-specific elements and a stronger connection to the overall plot and character arcs.
  • The use of humor in the dialogue adds depth to the characters and provides moments of levity.
  • The exploration of themes such as faith, the end times, and personal beliefs adds complexity to the story.
Summary In this movie, titled "Charlie's Pain," the story follows a severely overweight man named Charlie who is dealing with various emotional and physical struggles in his squalid apartment. Charlie experiences intense chest pains and seeks help from a young man named Thomas. Instead of calling an ambulance, Charlie asks Thomas to read an essay to distract him from the pain. Throughout the movie, Charlie reflects on his life, his strained relationship with his daughter Ellie, and his own self-hatred. There are tense conversations about religion, confrontations with delivery boys, and moments of connection and understanding between Charlie and Ellie. Ultimately, the movie explores themes of regret, redemption, and the bonding power of shared experiences.

Screenplay Story Analysis

Story Critique The plot of the screenplay explores themes of mortality, isolation, family, and regret, which adds depth to the story. The scenes involving Charlie's physical and emotional struggles provide a strong emotional core. The dialogue is generally well-written and effectively conveys the tension and emotions between the characters. However, some scenes feel repetitive and could benefit from tighter pacing. Additionally, some character arcs, such as the relationship between Charlie and Ellie, could be further developed to create a stronger emotional payoff.
Suggestions: To improve the plot/story, consider streamlining some of the repetitive scenes and focusing on key moments of character development. Develop the arc between Charlie and Ellie, allowing for a more gradual and meaningful reconciliation. Explore opportunities to delve deeper into the themes of mortality and isolation, perhaps by incorporating more introspective moments for Charlie. Consider adding layers to the conflict between Charlie and Liz, providing more context and history to their strained relationship. Finally, ensure that the pacing of the screenplay remains consistent and maintains a balance between emotional depth and forward momentum.

Note: This is the overall critique. For scene by scene critique click here

Characters in the screenplay, and their arcs:


Charlie is a severely overweight and isolated man who is struggling with physical and emotional health issues. He holds strong opinions, values the importance of revision in academic work and is cynical about religion. He is introspective, caring, reflective and remorseful. He longs for a reconnection with his daughter Ellie and seeks redemption for his past mistakes. He is vulnerable, isolated, skeptical and experiences intense physical and emotional pain.


Thomas is a young man who initially represents New Life Church and holds strong religious beliefs. He is compassionate and concerned for others, but also naive and easily persuaded by his church's teachings. As the movie progresses, he experiences personal growth and reveals a darker past with the church. He becomes more conflicted about his beliefs and starts to question them, leading to a deeper understanding of himself and those around him.


Charlie is a severely overweight man who is burdened by guilt and regret. He struggles physically and emotionally due to various health issues and isolation. Charlie longs for connection and redemption. He values honesty in writing and humor in challenging situations.


Thomas is a conflicted individual who is grappling with his faith, doubts, and sexuality. He is a missionary from New Life Church who offers to help Charlie and reads an essay to him. He faces opposition from Liz and expresses his disagreement with her perspective. He left his family and friends after facing excommunication from the church.


Ellie is a teenage girl who harbors deep resentment towards her father Charlie for leaving their family. She is smart, independent, and guarded, using sarcasm and wit as a defense mechanism. Her tough exterior hides her desire for emotional connection and she struggles with feelings of anger and betrayal.


Liz is a strong and assertive woman who cares deeply about her friends. She exhibits confrontational behavior when necessary, but also displays empathy and understanding. Throughout the film, she is shown to be a loyal and supportive friend to Charlie, but also holds him accountable for his actions. She is deeply hurt by the betrayals of those around her and struggles to navigate her own emotions in the face of difficult situations.


Mary is a complex character with a guarded nature that stems from her own insecurities. She is emotional and flawed, struggling with her relationship with her daughter Ellie and her past regrets. Despite her initially cold demeanor, Mary shows signs of emotional distress when she sees Charlie and is protective of him.

Character Arc Critique Suggestions
Charlie Charlie's character arc follows his journey to reconnect with his daughter Ellie and seek redemption for his past mistakes. Throughout the movie, he struggles with physical and emotional pain and reflects on his past actions. He begins as a critical and sarcastic narrator, who is isolated and struggling with an understanding of 'The Great Gatsby.' As the movie progresses, he faces a health scare that pushes him towards seeking information to cope with his anxiety and pain. He realizes his mistakes and longs for a relationship with his daughter, which leads him to plead for forgiveness and offer a gesture of kindness by giving Ellie his essay. He balances his regrets with a sense of positivity and empathy while also confronting his own past actions and mistakes. He manipulates Ellie to test her but also shows vulnerability and a desire for connection. The movie hints at a potential change or resolution for his character as he struggles with his own personal demons but shows a sense of determination. While Charlie's character arc is well developed, there could be more emphasis on his growth and transformation throughout the movie. Charlie's manipulation of Ellie could be presented in a more nuanced and delicate way that can show his complexity but also his capacity for change and empathy. Additionally, there could be more exploration of his skepticism towards religion and his unresolved personal struggles.
The movie would benefit from presenting more positive moments for Charlie's character where he shows growth and transformation. The exploration of his skepticism towards religion and unresolved personal struggles could be better integrated into the plot to provide more depth to Charlie's character arc. Charlie's manipulation of Ellie could be presented in a more nuanced and delicate way, which can show his complexity and capacity for change and empathy. The movie would benefit from exploring how Charlie reconciles his skepticism towards religion with his desire for redemption and the complexity of his character development.
Thomas Thomas starts off as a representative of New Life Church, trying to convert others to his religion. Initially, he is portrayed as naive and easily influenced by the church's teachings. However, as the movie progresses, he starts to experience personal growth and begins to question his beliefs. He opens up about his difficult past with the church and starts to build connections with other characters, such as Ellie. Through his conversations with others, he starts to question his beliefs and realizes that there is more to life than just the teachings of his church. By the end of the movie, he has grown as a person and has started to separate himself from the more extreme beliefs of his church. While Thomas's character arc is interesting and provides a unique perspective on religious belief, it could benefit from a clearer motivation. For example, why did Thomas initially join the church and what led him to start questioning his beliefs? Additionally, while Thomas's personal growth is well-executed, it feels slightly rushed and could have been more thoroughly developed throughout the movie.
To improve Thomas's character arc, consider adding more backstory about his life before joining the church. This could help explain his initial motivation and also provide context for his eventual disillusionment with the church. Additionally, try to develop Thomas's growth more gradually throughout the movie, rather than only exploring it in the final act. This could involve incorporating more scenes of Thomas questioning his beliefs and building connections with other characters, which would make his personal growth feel more earned and satisfying.
CHARLIE Charlie begins the movie experiencing chest pain and refusing medical help, highlighting his reluctance to confront his health issues. However, his desire to reconnect with his estranged daughter, Ellie, drives him to take action and begin the process of losing weight and improving his health. Throughout the movie, Charlie faces many obstacles, both physical and emotional, but he does not give up on his goal of redeeming himself and rebuilding his relationship with Ellie. Ultimately, he succeeds in losing weight and regaining some mobility with a wheelchair. Charlie reflects on his past mistakes and values the power of honesty in writing to help him move forward and connect with his daughter again. The character of Charlie is well-developed and has clear motivations. However, his arc could be more nuanced and complex. While his weight loss journey is inspiring, his portrayal as solely seeking redemption through his weight loss and relationship with his daughter limits the potential depth and complexity of his character.
To improve Charlie's character arc, the screenplay could explore the underlying reasons for his weight gain and explore his character beyond his relationship with Ellie. Additionally, adding more internal conflict and emotional turmoil would add complexity and depth to his character's arc.
THOMAS Thomas starts as a well-meaning missionary, eager to help Charlie. However, as he becomes more involved in the group, he grapples with his personal demons. He feels conflicted between his faith, doubts, and sexuality. This leads to him acting out and causing tension within the group. Ultimately, he confronts his demons and decides to leave the church and embrace his sexuality, ending as a more accepting and self-assured person. The character arc is interesting and thought-provoking, but it would benefit from more development. Thomas's struggles with his faith, doubts, and sexuality are complex, and the film could explore these themes in greater depth.
To improve the character arc, the film could add more scenes that delve into Thomas's internal struggles. For example, it would be interesting to see him grappling with his beliefs and how they clash with his desires. Additionally, the film could show the fallout of his excommunication from the church, and how this affects his relationships with his family and friends.
Ellie Ellie's character arc begins with her as an angry and resentful daughter who blames her father for their broken family. As the movie progresses, Ellie confronts her own biases and assumptions, challenging societal norms and Thomas's religious beliefs. She learns to empathize with her father's perspective and shows moments of vulnerability and kindness towards him. Ellie begins to see the potential for growth and change in herself and starts to step out of her comfort zone, taking on more responsibility and caring for Charlie. In the end, Ellie reads her essay to Charlie and shows a brief moment of connection, signaling her potential for forgiveness and healing. The character arc for Ellie is well-written and explores her internal struggles and growth throughout the movie. However, there are moments where her character's actions and behaviors feel inconsistent and could use more development.
To improve Ellie's character arc, the screenplay could delve deeper into her motivations and emotions, giving the audience a stronger understanding of her inner conflicts. Additionally, her actions and behaviors could be more consistent throughout the movie, with her growth and development more clearly demonstrated in each scene. Overall, Ellie's character arc is strong, but could benefit from further development and consistency.
Liz Liz begins as a concerned and angry woman trying to help Charlie. She transforms into a strong and supportive friend who defends him against his enemies. However, her loyalty is tested when she discovers Ellie's betrayal and the extent of Charlie's wrongdoing. She ultimately makes the difficult decision to call for help and say farewell to Charlie. The character arc for Liz is interesting and presents some compelling challenges for the character. However, the transitions between each stage of her arc could be smoother, as it feels abrupt at times. Additionally, Liz's motivations and inner conflict could be further developed to create a deeper and more nuanced character.
To improve the character arc for Liz, consider adding more scenes that delve into her emotional journey and explore her motivations for each decision she makes. This could help create a more well-rounded and complex character. Additionally, consider adding more moments of hesitation or self-doubt for Liz, as she often feels too confident and assured in her decisions.
Mary Throughout the movie, Mary's character arc is focused on facing and overcoming her own insecurities and fears. She starts off resentful towards Ellie and initially expresses anger and resentment towards Charlie. However, as the story progresses, Mary begins to acknowledge her own mistakes and reflect on her relationship with her daughter and Charlie. She confronts Ellie about the money from Charlie's teaching and shows a protective side towards him. Towards the end of the movie, Mary reveals her struggles and shows empathy towards Charlie. She comes to a realization that she needs to let go of her resentment towards Ellie and try to mend their relationship. The character arc for Mary feels rushed and could benefit from more development throughout the movie. It is also lacking in specificity, with some parts unclear or underdeveloped. The transition from being resentful towards Ellie to showing empathy towards Charlie could also be smoother.
To improve Mary's character arc, the movie could focus on delving deeper into her past regrets and insecurities that have caused her guarded nature and resentful attitude towards Ellie. The transition towards empathy for Charlie could be smoothed over by showing more specific moments of reflection and self-realization, rather than it seeming to happen suddenly. Additionally, more scenes that explore Mary and Ellie's relationship could really help give the audience a deeper sense of their complicated dynamic.
Theme Theme Details Themee Explanation
MortalityThe screenplay explores the theme of mortality through Charlie's severe chest pain and his desire to hear an essay as if it were his last moments.The theme of mortality is present as Charlie confronts his own mortality through his physical pain and struggles to connect with his daughter before it's too late.
IsolationThe screenplay touches on the theme of isolation through Charlie's squalid apartment and his struggles to reach out for help.Isolation is a theme as Charlie experiences physical and emotional distress in his apartment and is largely alone in his struggles.
Desire for connectionThe screenplay explores the theme of the desire for connection through Charlie's interactions with Thomas and his attempts to reconnect with his estranged daughter Ellie.The theme of the desire for connection is present as Charlie seeks companionship, both through his interactions with Thomas and his attempt to repair his relationship with Ellie.
RegretThe screenplay delves into the theme of regret through Charlie's reflection on his past actions and his strained relationship with his daughter Ellie.Regret is explored as Charlie reflects on the consequences of his past choices, particularly in his relationship with Ellie, and tries to make amends.
FamilyThe screenplay explores the theme of family through the strained relationship between Charlie and his daughter Ellie.The theme of family is present as Charlie and Ellie struggle to reconnect and understand each other, reflecting the complexities and tensions within their relationship.
ReligionThe screenplay touches on the theme of religion through Thomas's affiliation with New Life Church and his discussions with Ellie.Religion is a theme as Thomas's presence and discussions with Ellie revolve around their differing beliefs and the impact of religion on their lives.
DoubtThe screenplay explores the theme of doubt through Thomas's questioning of his beliefs and experiences with the church.Doubt is present as Thomas shares his doubts about the church and its practices, leading to a crisis of faith and self-discovery.
Weight and physical healthThe screenplay touches on the theme of weight and physical health through Charlie's struggle with severe chest pain and the impact of his weight on his daily life.The theme of weight and physical health is present as Charlie's weight and health issues contribute to his physical and emotional struggles throughout the screenplay.

Screenwriting Resources on Themes


Site Description
Studio Binder Movie Themes: Examples of Common Themes for Screenwriters
Coverfly Improving your Screenplay's theme
John August Writing from Theme

YouTube Videos

Title Description
Story, Plot, Genre, Theme - Screenwriting Basics Screenwriting basics - beginner video
What is theme Discussion on ways to layer theme into a screenplay.
Thematic Mistakes You're Making in Your Script Common Theme mistakes and Philosophical Conflicts
Goals and Philosophical Conflict
internal Goals The protagonist's internal goals evolved throughout the script, ranging from seeking meaningful and engaging literature to finding comfort and connection in relationships.
External Goals The protagonist's external goals evolved throughout the script, ranging from academic assignments and deadlines to seeking medical help and emotional support.
Philosophical Conflict The overarching philosophical conflict in the screenplay is the clash of beliefs and values surrounding religion, personal beliefs, and existential concepts. The characters grapple with questions of faith, purpose, morality, and the search for meaning.

Character Development Contribution: The protagonist's evolving internal and external goals contribute to their emotional, psychological, and moral growth throughout the script. As they confront challenges and conflicts, they grapple with their beliefs, values, and personal transformations. The goals reflect their desires, fears, and deeper yearnings, allowing for a nuanced and layered portrayal of the character's development.

Narrative Structure Contribution: The evolving internal and external goals of the protagonist create a dynamic narrative structure, driving the plot forward and providing a trajectory for the character's journey. The goals provide a sense of direction and purpose to the story, as the protagonist navigates challenges, conflicts, and transformations. The narrative structure is shaped by the protagonist's pursuit of their goals, creating a cohesive and coherent storyline.

Thematic Depth Contribution: The goals and conflicts in the screenplay contribute to the thematic depth by exploring existential questions, morality, identity, family dynamics, and the human experience. The protagonist's internal and external goals provide a lens through which these themes are explored, offering a deeper understanding of the complexities of life, relationships, and personal growth. The goals and conflicts enhance the thematic exploration, creating a rich and thought-provoking narrative.

Screenwriting Resources on Goals and Philosophical Conflict


Site Description
Creative Screenwriting How Important Is A Character’s Goal?
Studio Binder What is Conflict in a Story? A Quick Reminder of the Purpose of Conflict

YouTube Videos

Title Description
How I Build a Story's Philosophical Conflict How do you build philosophical conflict into your story? Where do you start? And how do you develop it into your characters and their external actions. Today I’m going to break this all down and make it fully clear in this episode.
Endings: The Good, the Bad, and the Insanely Great By Michael Arndt: I put this lecture together in 2006, when I started work at Pixar on Toy Story 3. It looks at how to write an "insanely great" ending, using Star Wars, The Graduate, and Little Miss Sunshine as examples. 90 minutes
Tips for Writing Effective Character Goals By Jessica Brody (Save the Cat!): Writing character goals is one of the most important jobs of any novelist. But are your character's goals...mushy?