The Reel Review

B

There is something magical that happens when a creature in the wild attempts to establish contact with us. The connection, even if brief, changes our perception of the world and is an incredibly moving, unforgettable experience. This Oscar-nominated Netflix documentary is about conservationist and filmmaker Craig Foster and his unusual year-long friendship with an octopus in a kelp forest off the coast of Cape Town, South Africa.

Craig Foster and his octopus friend in My Octopus Teacher.

The narrative starts off with our depressed, burned out filmmaker stumbling upon this amazingly intelligent creature hiding behind a cloak of shells. As more fascinating details of the octopus come to light, Foster (and we) are drawn in to the drama and the humor of her everyday life. She outwits sharks! She plays with fish! It is a poignant and surprisingly moving story, beautifully captured by acclaimed nature cinematographer Roger Horrocks (Our Planet, Blue Planet) and featuring an emotionally stirring piano score.

The octopus reaches out to touch Craig Foster’s hand in My Octopus Teacher.

The biggest beef with the film is Craig Foster’s insertion of himself a little too much into the story, sometimes to the point of distraction. And you cannot help but wonder if the personality Foster has given her is real, or more of a reflection of his own projection. Regardless, My Octopus Teacher is a beautiful crowdpleaser and will change the way you look at the clever octopus, with a heartfelt ending harkening back to the popular children’s classic, Charlotte’s Web.  

REEL FACTS

• Craig Foster’s Sea Change Project (seachangeproject.com), which he founded as a result of this documentary, is a community of scientists, storytellers, journalists and filmmakers dedicated to protecting the world’s ocean ecology.

• Craig Foster’s unusual cadence has spawned a pretty hilarious parody video about a man’s relationship with his pool cleaner. Enjoy!

• The lifespan of the octopus is typically 1-3 years, limited by reproduction: males die a few months after mating and females shortly after their eggs hatch.

 

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