5.5/10 The first Apple TV+ documentary that I have ever seen, “Fathom” has some gorgeous imagery and passionate subjects but feels thin and frustrating at times. The roughly hour and 20-minute running time is both a help and a hindrance. The lean running time keeps the pace moving along and the whole movie can be watched quickly. However, since we do have such limited time with our two female scientists, we have limited time to dive into more of their lives and their knowledge about whales and how they communicate. On the upside, we as the viewer are able to learn a decent amount about whales. A creature I knew little about, we learn that not only do whales communicate but they even sing to each other, spreading their songs all around the world. While these are fascinating facts, they aren’t quite enough to sustain the run time. The opening of the movie is strong and the Alaskan and French Polynesian landscapes are breathtaking. However, when we split off into the two teams of Dr. Ellen Garland and Dr. Michelle Fournet, some problems arise. The half of the movie following Dr. Garland is rather dry as she struggles with her mission and only has a couple brief moments of victorious excitement. Dr. Fournet has a much more interesting plot as she has lots of laughs with her two co-workers, has to overcome damaged equipment and after her co-workers leave, has a friend join her and we get to see their chemistry and revealing dialogue. Every time Dr. Garland was on screen, I was just waiting to switch back to Dr. Fournet’s team. The movie has great individual moments and we do get a glimpse into these women’s lives and how hard it is to be in the field, separated from loved ones but the field work we witness is largely dry and boring. Watching people watch whales and record distances, azimuths and frequencies to each other is as boring as it sounds. While their passion for their jobs is extremely admirable, we can’t get as excited as they are with just watching. The cinematography was solid but the score was completely forgettable so they evened each other out. A documentary is only as fascinating as its subject matter and while what I learned about whales was interesting and memorable, so much of the movie was tinkering with equipment and staring at a computer, that I wished I was watching more gorgeous underwater footage of the whales themselves. While the information we got on our scientists’ personal lives were the best parts of the movie, I wish this documentary would have covered more ground…or at least water.
#FathomEventsPresents / #OnlyScans / #TheWhaleGaze / #WhupThereItIs / #YouveGotWhale / #AintNoHumpBackGirl

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