A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Seek to discover the answers to unresolved questions. Compassion, curiosity, perseverance, and teamwork are themes.
Positive Role Models
The director, crew, and researchers follow their curiosity and compassion to tell the story of the 52 Hertz whale. To try to find it, they use teamwork and perseverance. Although the interview subjects are mostly White, the expedition team has diversity in terms of age and gender, including a female marine biologist.
Violence & Scariness
Distressing images of a whale being harpooned. Old video images of whales being captured, dead carcasses, and being sliced up.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Drawing of a topless female figurehead carved into the bow of a boat.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Brief image of man smoking in the back of a crowd.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Loneliest Whale: The Search for 52 is about the journey to find a whale that appears to have been all alone for decades, unable to communicate with others of its species. Drawing a connection between humans' worries for the whale's emotional well-being and our own feelings, the documentary looks at the psychology of why people care about saving a species -- and what it says about the collected state of human loneliness. The movie's central mission is daunting at best: The team is trying to find one elusive whale that hasn't been heard from in more than a decade, that no one has ever actually laid eyes on, and that could be anywhere in the ocean, if it's even alive. But the attempt comes with a clear message: It's always worth it to follow your curiosity and seek answers. Teamwork, perseverance, and compassion are also themes. A brief history of whaling is included, accompanied by upsetting images of whales being harpooned, captured, dragged onto ships, sliced, and peeled. Other iffy content is minimal but includes a brief image of a person smoking in a crowd and mild language ("damn"). To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This quest to find a mythical one-of-a-kind whale aboard the good ship Truth has all the elements of an epic, kid-friendly adventure, but it only partially delivers. The beauty and mystery of large marine life are easy ins when it comes to connecting kids to nature, and some of the images in The Loneliest Whale are phenomenal -- including showing a whale's viewpoint thanks to the equivalent of a GoPro attached to its head. Gorgeous images of a whales moving and swimming in the water and explanations of how whales hear and communicate through oceans are fascinating.
The problem is that, since this is real life, rather than a scripted piece of CGI filmmaking, the movie lacks some of the cinematic qualities necessary to keep kids fully engaged. Director Joshua Zeman establishes an impossible premise: Let's find a whale that hasn't been seen or heard from in more than a decade and, by the way, might not even exist. It feels like looking for Bigfoot or the Loch Ness monster, with only a few clues, tips and theories. But without any real threats (like a villain or storms), notable obstacles other than the noise of a nearby cargo vessel, or big/funny personalities to help push the story along, the film beaches. It's stuck on the shore, weighed down by its sweet earnestness. Zeman tries to find creative ways to occupy viewers' minds through an explanation of the horrors of the whaling industry, showing how and why the Save the Whales campaign succeeded in capturing the zeitgeist. Unlike those searching for Nessie or Sasquatch, Zeman at least gets some answers. But to find resolution, stay through the first round of credits -- the mic drop occurs, oddly, after many people may have left the theater.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.