Everyone has it. That one film they never admit to liking in public. When asked to list your top 10 films, it’s not on there, despite the fact you’d happily watch it on a loop for a week. It’s time to get it out in the open, and my guilty pleasure film is Free Willy.
I’ve loved orca whales for so long I can’t remember if I love the film because of the whale or if it’s the other way around. What I do know is that even though there is nothing that special about it, Free Willy makes me happy. It’s the perfect film to watch on a wet afternoon or when you’re half asleep, and it never fails to cheer me up. Perhaps it’s because it reminds me of my childhood, or because I still kind of wish I had a pet whale too. All I know is that when those opening shots of the whale pod come on screen and that simple harmonica theme starts playing I’m hooked.
It might not feature among the greatest films of our time, but in fairness Free Willy does have a lot going for it. While the idea of an angry disadvantaged child finding something to relate to in an equally messed up animal isn’t unique (I’d draw comparisons with Kes if I was less afraid of the ensuing outrage ) it’s done really well in Free Willy; not making a big deal out of the fact that Jesse has no family while at the same time using it as the device for why the pair understand each other. Of course, a lot of why the film is successful is that orca whales really are beautiful (take that Flipper) but I reckon you’ve got to hand it to 13 year old Jason James Richter for what is a remarkably strong performance in such a young actor. Pretty much the whole film sits on is shoulders and he carries it effortlessly. Oh, and any film that can make Michael Madsen seem friendly has to get bonus points.
So there you go. I’ve admitted it. Now it’s your turn.