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Film Review: 52 - A Tale of Loneliness

52 - A Tale of Loneliness

Written & Directed by Johnny DePalma

Read by Patton Oswalt

Inspired by the true story of the 52 Hz whale, “52 A Tale of Loneliness” tells the story of a whale who is different from any other whale in the ocean. This unique whale calls at the frequency of 52 Hz, unlike other whales, such as the blue whale that calls at 10-39 Hz, or the fin whale that calls at 20 Hz. His difference makes him feel lonely. He cannot communicate with his friends or feel part of them. He feels that his voice is not heard, and that no one in the ocean notices his existence. The whale, narrated by Patton Oswalt ("Ratatouille", "Young Adult") opens his monologue with "The ocean is a beautiful thing", and takes the viewers on an underwater journey. We see his world, but we can feel the way he feels in our own lives, in our own world. "Hello friends," the whale talks directly to us, "Not that you hear me, anyway."

Since the film is based on a children's book, the text is said in rhymes, which creates a kind of personal and touching song that flows like the waves in the sea. The whale doesn't blame anyone in his situation: "It's not that other whales aren't kind, they are in fact I know it so where one will swim the others go." He doesn't look for the bad guys in the story, but rather mourns the fact that the other whales cannot hear him sing, or even see him ("I'm simply here, but they can't see, for whales find whales not just with eyes, but also with their vocal cries"). The whale's positive attitude, despite the pain and frustration he experiences, evokes immediate identification with him.

The whale also finds the bright spots in his solitude ("There's more to see when you're alone"), and engages the viewers by speaking to them directly: "I'm sure I'll have a friend some day and maybe they'll be just like you someone who is kind and smart and true." The animation quality is pretty basic, but somehow fits the story perfectly. What is interesting about the animation is the creator's great sensitivity towards the whale, and his attention to the small details in the plot. The score fits the tale, and never takes over the story, and the narration by Patton Oswalt is full of heart and honesty. The fantastic Patton Oswalt is brilliant as usual and brings the character to a whole new level.

The story has a great message – yes, the whale would be happy to be like the other whales. But then, he wouldn't be the way he is ("And I like me!"). Sometimes we feel different, we're lonely, we want to be like other people, but in the end, each of us is special in his own way, so we have to love ourselves and our "flaws" because there is no one else like us in the entire world.

52 - A Tale of Loneliness Trailer

52 - A Tale of Loneliness won an Honorable Mention: First Time Director, and an Honorable Mention: Original Story at LAFA (October 2020).

About the director - Johnny DePalma

In 2006, Johnny DePalma founded Umbrelly Books Publishing where he continues to grow his personal vision of unique children’s literature. To date, Mr. DePalma has released six books, created one popular, albeit bizarre holiday, and brought home first place from the Bay Area Olympiad of Arts. Recently, he conceived and curated the Emergency Art Museum in his hometown of Campbell, CA. For more information, visit


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