In the third act of “The Whale,” a source of enormous friction comes between Charlie and Liz once the latter character finds out that Charlie secretly has around $120,000 in his bank account, all of which he’s kept for Ellie. Understandably, Liz is aghast at this revelation, since it means that Charlie always had the money necessary for health care or to pay for transportation when her car broke down the previous winter. After this reveal, Liz storms out of Charlie’s apartment, with her abrupt exit indicating that one of the few friendships Charlie had has come to an end. However, shortly afterward, Liz returns to Charlie’s side to care for him in his final hours. There’s clearly some tension between the two in their conversations, but she’s returned to her caretaking role again.
Liz’s response to Charlie’s secrecy is incredibly understandable, and the same is true for why she’d come back to help the dying Charlie. However, in the context of the story, this sudden deterioration of a previously flourishing friendship feels superfluous. Liz’s betrayal by Charlie comes in the middle of a scene where there’s already so much tension from Charlie interacting with his ex-wife, Mary (Samantha Morton). It doesn’t feel like we need further animosity in this sequence while the lack of resolution for Liz’s feelings is incredibly frustrating. The idea behind this plot point involving Liz and Charlie isn’t bad, but the execution could have used work.