A 2021 Film Journey: Day 82

Today was a slightly better day for me than the prior two. I’m still feeling largely run down by everything but sitting down to watch a movie felt much less arduous today, so I’ll take my win. While I may be feeling a bit better, time still eluded me, so in the service of getting to bed at a reasonable time, it will be another short entry about an Oscar nominated film for me today.

My Octopus Teacher (2020, Dir. Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed)

Jackson Wild Talk - Jackson Wild: Nature. Media. Impact.

After multiple days of running into films the followed the traditional Oscar bait formula to a T, it was nice to watch a film that was at the very least unique. I also have a personal penchant for stories of people taking to nature as a means of self-reflection having done so myself, so My Octopus Teacher should be right up my alley. However, while I didn’t dislike the film, there are a couple of things keeping me from endorsing the film outright.

Escaping to nature in the midst of an internal crisis is a well tried trop for a reason. A combination of an escape from obligations with peace, quiet, and solidarity is a perfect mixture for a self-reassessment. In this way, nature acts as a catalyst rather than the literal solution. And there in lies what doesn’t quite sit with me in My Octopus Teacher. Craig Foster mentions his struggles with fatherhood, but the film let’s his struggles with reality take a back seat to his relationship with the octopus. This flipped perspective on the formula leads to some awkward conclusions. By choosing to exist in natures literal healing properties rather than implying metaphor, the extreme personification of the mollusk comes across as Craig imposing himself on the wild creature rather than a meditative experience. I was frequently taken aback form the film as Craig appeared to be terrorizing his supposed teacher. While I commend the film for trying a new framing of their documentary, this deviation away from symbolism distorted the message in an unproductive way.

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