Big Fish, Small Pond
The 2003 film Big Fish starring Billy Crudup and Albert Finney follows the lives of the Bloom family. Will Bloom has always been told wondrous tall tales by his father Edward about his life. During Will’s wedding reception, his father tells the guests the enthralling story of how Will shot out of his mother like a slippery missile and how on that day Edward almost lost his wedding ring to an overgrown fish. This is the last straw for Will, who cannot take another one of his fabricated stories -stories that Will has heard his entire life. Outside, he confronts his father. This is the last night that Will speaks to his father for over three years. It isn’t until Will’s mother Sandra calls him to inform him that Edward is very sick and his days on Earth are numbered. Seeing this as his last chance to get to know his father, Will and his pregnant wife Josephine return to Will’s hometown of Ashton.
Despite the fact that Will and Edward have been estranged for years, Will makes an attempt to have a relationship with his ailing father to try once and for all to get Edward to tell the truth about his life without hiding behind the fable tales.
Edward, bedridden and fading, recounts the memories of his life to Will and Josephine. He tells them mystifying stories: Carl, the giant who became his friend and joined the circus; Amos Calloway, who he worked for at the Circus and also happened to be a werewolf; Jenny, a young girl from Spectre that had a crush on him; the singing Siamese twins Ping and Jing, who Edward helped during the Korean War to get to American entertainment industry. Will believes his father has lied to him all of his life about who he is, where he has been, the things that he has seen and stories he has told. Throughout the film, Will tries to get his father to tell him the truth of who he is -”the good, the bad, everything” (Big Fish). His father replies, “I have been nothing but myself since the day I was born. And if you can’t see that, it’s your failing, not mine” (Big Fish). As his father gets weaker, Will thinks he will never get to know his father for who he truly is.
Sandra, Will’s mother, shows Will the telegram she got when Edward was in the Korean War telling her that Edward was missing in action and presumably dead after Will scoffs off his father’s story about Ping and Jing during the war. Will is shocked and asks, “that really happened?” (Big Fish). Sandra replies, “Not everything your father says is a complete fabrication” (Big Fish). At this moment wheels begin to turn in Will’s mind now that he knows that there is some truth to his father’s stories.
The turning point in Will and Edward’s relationship is when Edward has a stroke and is hospitalized. There at the hospital Will asks the doctor who delivered him to recount the story of his birth. The doctor retells him and states that it was a simple normal birth. Though it is never truly said in the film, Will finally sees the beauty in his father’s stories. The way Edward told stories made it memorable, vivid, and turned ordinary things into extraordinary tales. The truth has always been important to Edward. Will finally understands his father and sees the beauty and truth in Edward’s method of truth telling through storytelling.
When his father finally passes away, Will meets the characters from Edward’s fantastic stories at his funeral. Will sees that all the people in the stories are real, yet not the fantastically magical people that he was told about. Carl isn’t a giant, but he is tall. Amos Calloway is hairy and short, but most definitely not a werewolf. Jenny is older now. And the singing Siamese twins Ping and Jing are not Siamese twins, but they are identical.
When Will’s son is born, he passes on his father’s stories and has developed the love of telling truths in the form of storytelling. Edward had always wanted to be the big fish in a small pond. He understood that each one of us as a story to tell and we can tell it anyway we want because when we are gone all we have is our stories. Our stories and the truth in our stories will be passed on from one generation to the next. In this way, we become immortal.