Patrick and the Whale is a delightful doc about a man who just wants to be friends with sperm whales, featuring some amazing footage. Alex Heeney reviews the film Patrick and the Whale which is Read all of our TIFF 2022 coverage here.
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Admittedly, I’m a whale lover. For whale lovers, a good whale documentary means getting to see lots of whales. It’s especially good when you get to learn about them, too. Last year, documentaries focused on the songs of humpback whales (Fathom), the entanglement of right whales and human attempts to rescue them (Last of the Right Whales), and the whale that might be a mix of a blue whale and a sperm whale (The Loneliest Whale). With Patrick and the Whale, sperm whales take centre stage.
Patrick and the Whale follows diver and whale lover Patrick Dykstra in his attempt to befriend the very social sperm whales. At first, he wants to learn more about them. Then, he decides he really wants to build relationships. He forms relationships with two sperm whales: Dolores, who plays with him one year and abandons him the next, and Can Opener, who lets him tag her with a camera and introduces him to her calf.
Befriending the whales in Patrick and the Whale
Much of Patrick and the Whale feels like a fool’s errand about a man who desperately needs therapy instead of hoping that whales will be his friends. He seems like someone who could benefit from watching Lean on Pete to learn that a horse is a horse, not a friend or saviour. Whales are smarter, certainly, but they don’t live to serve human needs, either.
But Dykstra’s love for the whales and perseverance pays off. His work leads to some incredible sequences in which he really does actually befriend the whales. At first, he wanted to study them. By the end, he wanted to just be the whales. And he makes a strong case that that’s a missing part of how we understand whales. Ultimately, it’s a film for whale lovers and animal lovers, alike. It’s the kind of film you’d be delighted to stumble across on National Geographic. And then, you find yourself thinking about it for days later.
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