My Octopus Teacher (2020)

This inspirational Oscar-winning documentary shows us that nature is our best teacher—that we are fully capable of adapting and changing for the better if only we had the wisdom to do so. 

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Review #2,193

Dir. Pippa Ehrlich & James Reed
2020 | South Africa | Documentary | 85 mins | 1.78:1 | English
G (Netflix rating)

Plot: A free diver and an octopus develop an odd friendship across species, in a beautiful and thought-provoking film from the world under the sea.
Awards: Won Best Documentary Feature (Oscars)
Distributor: Netflix

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate – Nature, Wildlife, Connection
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Pace: Normal
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream

Viewed: Netflix
Spoilers: No

Nature already exists way before Man.  For millions of years, it has acquired an immense amount of wisdom, perhaps far too great for the human mind to comprehend, which is why we are always at a loss for words when we witness how intelligent animals are.  Watching My Octopus Teacher, we get a tiny glimpse of the invisible force we are dealing with.

Winning the Oscar for Best Documentary has boosted its profile tremendously, but the film is modest at heart—some might even call it slight when compared to the other nominees of the year. 

Still, as far as inspirational documentaries are concerned, this highly accessible Netflix original should please everyone young and old in the family curious to do a deep dive together. 

“What she taught me was to feel… that you’re part of this place, not a visitor.”

Centering on Craig Foster, a filmmaker who found the change in his life that he so desired when he goes diving off the coast of the Western Cape of South Africa, My Octopus Teacher tracks his underwater journey for nearly a year as he discovers and becomes acquainted with an octopus. 

A tale of an unlikely friendship captured wonderfully on camera, the film shows us how a small invertebrate could connect and trust a human many times its size. 

As the main narrator, Craig recounts what he learnt from his interactions with the sea creature—the film’s spritely editing and extraordinary underwater shots (largely from his perspective) keep it invigorating and fresh, so much so that it feels more like a personal audiovisual diary than an educational nature documentary, though it is in some ways modelled after it. 

Grade: B+




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