I wouldn’t call myself an environmental activist, but I am definitely an environmentalist – that is, one who bases my daily life decisions taking into consideration the impact that my actions will ultimately have on nature, animals, and the greater good for life on Earth. Many environmental documentaries use scare tactics to try to frighten people into being educated about the dastardly things people do for money: destroying rainforests, polluting watershed systems, fishing species of fish and whales to near extinction. Though this type of communication has a certain potential to be effective in changing people’s habits, there is an overall degree of negativity about it that totally turns me off.
So it was utterly refreshing to see a film like The Whale–an environmental documentary clearly intended to promote awareness and preservation of whales–especially orcas, or killer whales–where the viewer has the chance to draw their own conclusions because the story is told from an objective enough point of view to paint a picture with both positive and negative aspects of the situation.
The Whale, shot in British Columbia, was co-directed and produced by a two a couple of journalists: Michael Parfit and Suzanne Chisolm. The narrative is rich and well-told, recounting the true story of a baby killer whale named Luna who mysteriously becomes estranged from his family and his pod at the tender age of two. Killer whales practically always live in pods, and for a species with a lifespan comparable that of humans, two years old is nearly infancy. When the coast guard discovered a baby whale all alone off the Pacific Coast, nobody thought Luna would survive. But he did. He found a home in the isolated town of Nootka Sound, off the northwest coast of Vancouver Island.
But Luna was a lonely whale. Without normal social contact with other whales in his pod, he was in need of affection and love. For two years after he became estranged from his family, he called out for them every night after dusk. Eventually he gave up and sought attention in other ways; by seeking out human playmates in the absence of his normal whale family and friends.
The story that ensues is a true tale of friendship between humans and whales that draws attention to how humans so often misunderstand the true needs of animals. This is only natural, considering our vast biological, linguistic, and intellectual differences. The filmmakers capture the beauty and isolation of Vancouver Island while telling the story of Luna in a style that is as engaging and emotional as a drama, while remaining true to its documentary form. The film–narrated by Ryan Reynolds–had me crying at some points and laughing uncontrollably during others. I don’t want to give it away by telling too much more, but if you love nature and you find whales’ intelligence intriguing, the next time you have a spare 90 minutes, search out the Whale and watch it.