The Whaler Boy Trailer Picks At The Seductive Falsehoods of the American Dream

Image via Rock Films

“America. Go on, give her a wave.” Given the highly-anticipated trailers that dropped last week, including some killer first looks at Raimi’s Marvel come-back and Egger’s new Scandinavian sagaI’m not too surprised that the trailer for The Whaler Boy, a tiny Russian indie film, initially flew beneath my radar. But I’m glad it didn’t elude me entirely because it has quickly become one of my most anticipated films of the new year.

The Whaler Boy tells the story of 15-year-old Leshka, a whale hunter living in a remote town etched into the unforgiving Siberian tundra. Leshka is a boy whose insulated existence is upended by his growing infatuation with an online cam model living in America. As his obsession escalates, he decides to undertake the treacherous journey across the Bering Strait in hopes of starting a new life in “Detroit, America” with his distant love.

The debut film of Russian director Philipp Yuryev, it was initially released abroad in 2020, netting a few international awards that same year, the most prestigious of which being the Giornate degli Autori Director’s Award at the Venice Film Festival. Now, nearly two years later, the film is finally set to debut in the U.S.

The new English-subbed trailer presents an enticing blend of cinematic elements. The film is, at its core, a coming-of-age story; the tale of a young man on the cusp of adolescence, whose aspirations have outgrown the possibilities his demure, small-town existence offers. He is pining for a girl and a life that seems destined to remain just beyond his grasp, and separated from his dreams by 86 kilometers of icy Atlantic waters.

The trailers suggest more than just a melancholic tale of youthful longing and unrequited love, however. As our protagonist watches his home disappear over the horizon the quirky, surf-rock guitar fades, gradually replaced by the ominous pounding of drums. We see his battered face as tears stream down his grimy cheeks; there is a beached whale, its blood spilling into the ocean. This is also the tale of an immigrant, of shattered expectations and of promises broken at the highest level.

“America,” he whispers as his fingers gingerly brush the pixilated face of his beloved cam model. The soft pink glow of the computer screen is in stark contrast to the cold grays and blues of the misty Russian wilderness he calls home. The trailer less-than-subtly posits this nameless cam girl as analogous to the dream of a life in America, a carefully curated façade onto which the desperate and unfulfilled can project their fantasies.

It’s an intriguing narrative device, and it gives the film a lot of potential ways to poke, prod, and dissect some of the falsehoods in America’s manufactured image as the land of opportunity. And if the international reviews are to be believed, it seems that Yuryev uses it deftly. The film is set to release in the States on January 14th, though showings are sure to be rather limited. If you’re lucky enough to see The Whaler Boy listed on your local theatre’s “coming soon” page, I highly recommend taking the opportunity to see it on the big screen.

Written by Max McHone

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