Big Fish


Directed by: Tim Burton
Written by:John August
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney, Billy Crudup, Jessica Lange, Alison Lohman, Steve Buscemi, Helena Bonham Carter, Matthew McGrory
Released: February 5, 2004
Grade: A

“In telling the story of my father’s life, it’s impossible to separate fact from the fiction, the man from the myth.  The best I can do it, is to tell it the way he told me.” – William Bloom

Edward Bloom was the “biggest thing” the town of Ashton had ever seen.  He was the town’s best basketball, football and baseball player.  Men wanted to be him and women wanted to be with him.  Soon after his 18th birthday, Edward knew it was time to leave his simple life behind.  He was “destined for larger things”.

Accompanied by a 14-foot giant named Karl he had befriended, Edward set off and adventure he found.  Down a dark and haunted road, Edward came across the hidden town of Spectre – a mystery unto itself.  He met the woman who would become his wife at a circus run by a short man with a unique ability.  He fought undercover in the Vietnam War and returned to America with strange company.  He caught a legendary catfish using his wedding ring as bait on the day his only son was born.

That son was William (Crudup) who grew up adoring and believing his father’s stories.  Now, William is married and hasn’t spoken to his father in over three years.  He is angry that his father led him to believe such nonsensical tales for so long.  Will tried hard to get the truth from his father about what really happened but it only led to crazier and more elaborate stories.

Now, his father is dying and somewhat reluctantly, Will has returned to the family home to be with his dad for the last time.  At his bedside Will hopes finally for some straight answers and pleads with his father “to just show me who you are for once”.  Edward is not going to make it easy for Will but in the end, everything will make perfect sense…

Such a fantasy could only have been directed by the brilliant Tim Burton.  You never know what to expect from Burton and his films take us into strange new worlds laced with originality.  Just look at Batman, Edward Scissorhands, Beetlejuice, Ed Wood and Sleepy Hollow.  He has an extraordinary vision and an imagination second-to-none.  Once you’ve seen this film, you can only look back at amazement at how impossible this must have been to visualise from a simple script.  I am deliberately trying not to reveal too much at the risk of spoiling its beauty for those yet to see it.  Just see how many references to water you can spot.

The story is told in the present tense with flashbacks and retellings of Edward’s great stories.  This provides both joy and sadness.  It is all leading to an emotion packed ending that will undoubtedly leave you thinking about the film but also about your own life.  It could have been too unbelievable or perhaps too sentimental but Tim Burton and screenwriter John August (writer of the underrated Go) have nailed the finale with ultimate precision.

Ewan McGregor (Trainspotting) plays the younger Edward with Albert Finney (Erin Brockovich) playing the elder.  They do share an uncanny resemblance.  My favourite character was the giant, Karl, played by Matthew McGrory.  He’s very tall himself in real life but the specific effects and trick photography make him the most realistic giant I’ve ever seen.

My most looked for quality in a movie is a great story.  Well here is a great story about someone telling great stories.  In the words of William Bloom - “it’s doesn’t always make sense, but that’s what kind of story this is.”