it's about a man (billy crudup) who grew up with the tall tales of his larger than life father (albert finney), stories he's heard so many times, things that he believed as a child that now as a adult he resents because he feels his father has been feeding him lies all his life, and now with his father on his death bed, the son sets out to find out the truth about his old man. the film follows two storylines, one set in the narratives of young ed bloom (ewan mcgregor), full of colors and interesting characters and storybook endings, the other set in the more austere real world, of will bloom trying to reconcile his father the man from the myth.
at the beginning of the movie, i found the reality aspect of the movie less interesting. if anything, will bloom is what we in the nomenclature would call a "hater". it didn't matter if the father's stories were true or not, they were so fun that i'd watch a whole movie just based on his supposed life, captured in that tim burton style we've come to love so much. ewan mcgregor is perfect in the role, his smirky likeability permeating these "flashback" moments, from his overachieving high school all star, to joining the circus, to fighting in the war, and finally meeting the woman who would one day be his wife.
it's in the foundation of reality that the film really takes off towards the second half of the movie though. the ending, when the son finally understands his father, i nearly burst out crying in the theatre, a tremendous feeling of sadness and happiness all at the same time. i had to look away from the screen and think about something else to stop myself from making a spectacle. i can't give anything away, but the ending is so poignantly beautiful, even now, thinking about it, makes me a little bit teary. not since frequency has there been a better father-son movie, not since the whale watcher has a movie left such a resonating emotional mark.
excluding LOTR (which is a new kind of cinematic entity all its own, no comparison can be made to it), big fish has got to be one of the greatest movies i've seen in a while. it is a must-see in every sense of the word, i can not recommend it more highly.