Adrift: Our Review of ‘The Whaler Boy’

Posted in Theatrical, What's Streaming? by - January 12, 2022
Adrift: Our Review of ‘The Whaler Boy’

Lyoshka (Vladimir Onokhov) dreams of America, a country where its girls (Kristina Asmus) work in buildings as cam girls. He dreams because he’s far away, in Chukotia in Eastern Russia, where scenes in his life look like Baroque paintings. There, he and members of his community occasionally rely on candlelight to have family dinners. His real life is a mix of that and spending his days providing whale meat to community members who can’t participate in whale fishing. For what it’s worth, there’s a visual texture to The Whaler Boy, reminiscent of early Jarmusch-esque indies. It’s a step in the right direction in depicting Indigenous life in Siberia even though it’s incel-y perspective takes points away from it.

Depicting a whaling community might seem monotonous and I suppose that female characters exists here to mix things up. Specifically, European looking women like the American girl and another blonde girl that one of the villagers send in to make some of the men happy. These girls’ presence throw a wrench into Lyoshka’s life as an attempt to remind viewers what it’s like for a teenager to experience these infatuations for the first time. There’s a quaintness to the few scenes with the other blonde girl. She tries to get his attention which makes him uncomfortable. That’s because giving her attention makes him, in his mind, disloyal to the American who probably doesn’t know he exists.

This normally makes for an interesting character study until it drifts away from believability. Or at least, it gets more difficult for viewers to relate to Lyoshka as he alienates himself from the community. Specifically, when he becomes more aggressive towards his best friend Kolyan (Vladimir Lyubimtsev), conjuring up the idea that he’s one of the American’s other fans. In his mind, Kolyan paid for a private session with her to keep him from seeing her. The camerawork tries to capture Lyoshka’s increasingly chaotic mind, but the end result feels sloppy. There has to be ways to depict someone’s seemingly temporary downward spiral. In fact, there are better ways to depict a teenager’s singular mindset.

Lyoshka’s choice to bash Kolyan’s head in forces The Whaler Boy out of its many possibilities. Thinking that he killed Kolyan, he chooses to run away and meet the American in Detroit, and he gets far enough to an island between Chukotia and Alaska. There he meets an American who works for the coast guard (Arieh Worthaler). But this is like seventy minutes into the film it has one of two choices. Those choices make the film difficult to give it the momentum that it needs. The film also requires to express the space he has to travel and it lacks that.

  • Release Date: 1/14/2022
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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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