TV-G. It's got the same problem that Bambi does. Yeah, it can be G-rated all day long. It can avoid questionable content for a wholesome experience. But you know why I'm not excited to watch this particular TV-G movie with my kids? It's because nature is a cruel mistress who makes us fall in love with her only to torture us with death an predatory moments. And My Octopus Teacher has lots of those. TV-G.
DIRECTORS: Pippa Erlich and James Reed
It's 10:15 at night. I'm on vacation. I've been driving all day long and I told myself that I would continue writing. My wife is getting work done and I knew that I had to write about My Octopus Teacher. I checked my notepad and it wasn't there, but I knew that it was due pretty soon. If I managed to write this blog before, I'll be very upset. Part of that comes from the fact that I was really jazzed to watch My Octopus Teacher with the way that Netflix hyped it up and then got really bored with the movie as a whole.
But there is one thing that I really wanted to write about it. It's the same thought that has been running through my mind from the moment I got into the movie. I really need to talk about how Craig Foster's problems aren't valid. I heard somewhere that therapists regularly stress that everyone's problems have merit. For example, while I never have to worry about some of the lower levels of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, such as food or shelter, my anxiety and occasional self-destructive eating habits are very real. That being said --and I should remind my readers that I am a terrible person --Craig Foster needs to cool it on the justification for this project. See, I knew that this was about a man's study of a single octopus based on the trailer. That was a perfectly reasonable film study. Heck, I'll go as far as to say that his topic is fascinating. But the bulk of the movie is about how Craig Foster learned how to heal and bond with his son because of his relationship with this octopus.
I call shenanigans, by the way. Let's go with the one that really bugs me: how this octopus helped him bond with his son. It's low hanging fruit. Foster is having this midlife crisis where he feels distant from reality and from his family. So to do something about it, he decides to go swimming in the coral reefs every day to give himself some perspective. That's a very lovely life. Mazel. But Tom, his son, is barely in this documentary. There is so much footage of him going out into the water alone. I get that there are things that the camera isn't picking up. I get that. But this really doesn't feel like a bonding experience with his teenage son. This feels like a rich guy going swimming every day and sometimes his kid is there. That's far from an attempt to bond with your kid. I get that an experience with an octopus might bring two people together. Heck, that's actually the movie I want to see. All that being said, whatever bond happened with his son is almost incidental. It happened because of Tom, not because of an octopus.
And the second thing? Most people shouldn't give themselves a year of free time to swim everyday. That's called retirement. That's not something that the majority of the human race can experience. Craig Foster must have such a comfortable level of income that he can decide to document his swimming experience well into his escape and call it a movie. Because that was one of the things that he stressed when he was making the documentary. He found the courage to pick up the camera again and start making movies because he found peace within himself because of his relationship with this octopus. It's not the thing that's exactly going to ingratiate you to me. You decided to run away from the world and go swimming by yourself because you were stressed out. But the thing is, Craig Foster was documenting real people with real problems. I just don't get it.
And because of the sheer pretentiousness of the whole documentary, I couldn't view this thing as a nature documentary. I wanted to enjoy it as this really small scaled doc where the filmmaker just happened to learn something about himself over the course of watching this octopus battle predators while being a predator in its own right. I wanted to watch about the beauty of the grotesque. But instead, I kept watching how the filmmaker kept on getting in the way of a story that was telling itself all throughout. Foster himself gets these amazing shots of this octopus doing these insane things. He gives this animal human like traits. He makes it really become something to root for, even though it is bizarre and inhuman. But it's all of Foster's justification for being there that kept bumming me out.
So I left the movie very much like Foster left the reef: saddened and let down. There was something beautiful on screen. Maybe it isn't Foster's fault. I am coming down on him way too hard. I just never really believed his tale. I don't know if that's the right wording. I believed that Foster believed these things. But I also know that I will never have the luxury to go escape to an aquatic wonderland while my kids raise themselves. I am blessed to be sitting on a place for vacation and writing at 10:30 at night. But I don't claim that this is work. I claim that this is just something that I do and I enjoy. It is relaxing and stressful at the same time.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.