Big Fish, directed by Tim Burton, provides an interesting take on the idea, and truths, of
storytelling. The film opens with Edward Bloom describing an encounter with an enormous catfish.
This is just the beginning of the stories that he tells his son Will and, over the years, Will eventually
stops believing in his father’s stories. However, after Edward becomes ill, Will returns with his wife.
We are able to relive Edward’s fantastical life as he has various flashbacks throughout the movie. I
initially sided with Will’s opinion of his father’s stories and did not believe that there was any truth
behind them. However, at the end of the movie, we find out that, while the majority of Edward’s
stories were fabricated, the main ideas and characters were all essentially true. Edward eventually
succumbs to his illness and, at his funeral, the characters of his stories are all present. Sure, there
are some details about them that were made up, but we see that the essential parts of Edward’s
stories were all very real.
I appreciated many aspects of the film, however, the most notable one is how Tim Burton was
able to combine real-life and fantasy. While watching, I sometimes lost track of what was real
versus what was make-believe. In a way, that helps characterize Edward. I think, at a point in his
amazing life, even he had a hard time distinguishing between the two. Some may consider this a
draw back of the film, but I think it was essential in understanding the absolute chaos in Edward’s
life. Also, the film awoke my child-like sense of imagination. I felt myself nearing the edge of my
seat waiting to see how portions of the story would play out. The immense amount of tension
seemed to build upon itself until the very last scene, in which we see Will make his own attempts at
storytelling to help ease his father’s death.
Speaking of Edward’s last scene, I really came to like Will’s character. Although I also had a
hard time believing his father’s stories, I thought Will was unbearably rude and condescending. He
seemingly discredited his father’s word at every opportunity, even to the point of questioning his
father’s loyalty to his mother. But, throughout the story, we figure out that Will desperately wanted
to know who his father really was and become close with him. However, Edward’s free-spirited
tendencies prevented him from bonding with his son. We eventually see Will as a hurt child,
instead of the crotchety man he has grown into. I’ll admit, I shed a tear or two, as they finally
bonded at the end of Edward’s life.
Admittedly, I began watching the movie not really sure about the plot. However, after being
instantly hooked, I can assure anyone interested in the film that it is definitely worthwhile.
Fantasy Flashback: Big Fish (2003)
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Director: Tim Burton
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney, Helena Bonham Carter, Miley Cyrus, Matthew McGrory