(a film review by Timothy J. Verret)
I admit it; I love director Tim Burton’s films. If there was ever an Enneagram 4 with a 5 wing director, it would be Mr. Burton (never mind that we share the same first name). His films, noteworthy favorites of mine to include SWEENEY TODD, FRANKENWEENIE and the recent DUMBO, are unparalleled as far as being completely original, unique in artistic vision and always fantastical and often sublime. That said, I think it is Burton’s BIG FISH that blows his other films out of the water, because what Burton does with this film is display all his above-mentioned artistic gifts that make his work stand out, but the hook here is a heartfelt exploration of a father-son relationship.
Edward Bloom is a man of stories, and I’m not talking about some silly campfire conversations. No, Edward tells stories that are simply out of this world, something his son, Will, has a very hard time believing. In fact, it is Edward’s stories that leave Will feeling as though he never really knew his father, only his father’s stories, that to Will seem impossible for him to have ever believed. BIG FISH takes us on the journey of the young Edward Bloom, as the older Bloom comes to terms with his strained relationships with his wife and his son. What is uncovered along the way, I care not to reveal, but what I will reveal is that BIG FISH is about sons who never really knew their fathers and fathers who never really knew their sons. It’s about the “blocks” that happen when a father and son can’t communicate with love as the sole intention. Edward lived his life of great risk-taking, but the greatest risk he never took was to sit his son, Will, down and say, “Will, the reason I am telling you all these incredible stories is because they happened to me, but the main reason I am telling them to you is because I love you and want my stories to live on through you.”
The acting in BIG FISH is topnotch, with Albert Finney captivating in his portrayal of the older Bloom. Ewan McGregor, Billy Crudup, and my own personal favorite, Jessica Lange (please, directors, do not give Ms. Lange such a small part; it hurts my heart!) also equally powerful. Finney has stood the test of time as one of our greatest actors. He is a deep actor, a truthful actor, an actor unafraid of getting wet, both literally and figuratively (as far as this film is concerned).
The ending of the film with Edward in the hospital and Will at his bedside had me tearing up so much, that I cried right into my lunch plate (I was eating some pretty messy veggie hot dogs, and it did not bode so well for me to be wiping my tears away with vegetarian chili-ridden hands). 😋
BIG FISH really got to me because it reminded me so much of my relationship with my father….and probably so many sons’ relationships with their fathers. Fathers can keep the stories coming and should do just that, but fathers need to understand that what their sons need is not so much the fantastical tales but rather the realness of just “being there,” “being present” for their sons, and being simple with their sons and simply loving them minus the extravagance but rather heavy on the emotions. What better tale for a father to tell his son than, “I love you, son,” and a son to respond, “I know you do, Dad. Care to tell me another story about your life?”
BIG FISH swims upstream to new waters for Mr. Burton, a director who is entirely unique as a filmmaker and, with this film, entirely truthful and heart-centered as a director of genuine emotions when characters’ still waters run as deep as an ocean.