Review: My Octopus Teacher

Written and directed by Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed, a filmmaker (Craig Foster) forges an unusual friendship with an octopus living in a South African kelp forest, learning as the animal shares the mysteries of her world.

From the second it begins you can see just how beautiful its cinematography is, it’s genuinely a magnificent visual that captures all the colours and wonders that this hidden little section of nature has to offer. It’s mesmerising to watch and only improved by the addition of Craig Foster’s narration, he has a lovely slow, meaningful and relaxing cadence to his voice that guides you through the story from start to finish. You wouldn’t expect a documentary that spends 85-minutes following one singular octopus to be quite as captivating as it is but the fact that he spent so much time with this one little being means that you get to see almost its entire life cycle and how much it impacted his life. Instead of trying to cover the vastness of creatures that the kelp forest had to offer, its charm is in the fact that explores the dangers and developments that occur to this one octopus which normally you wouldn’t be privy to and allows you to genuinely become invested in its story.

Capturing the octopus’ lifecycle meant that Foster was freediving to visit her almost everyday and the sincere connection that developed and the care that he demonstrates is wonderful, to be able to create that type of relationship with a mollusc is incredible. The genuine love that he builds towards her is something you never expect to see, with nature documentaries generally keeping a distance but Foster literally dives right in and gets to know this creature, while being careful not to interfere with nature as much as possible. It’s certainly something most people won’t know that these molluscs are capable of recognising people and almost have the same mental capabilities as a cat or a dog and they captured this example so well to educate audiences of all ages. It’s full of such a clear passion and respect for nature, as well as a yearning to learn more and understand all the intricacies of these molluscs and their various neighbours, it’s entirely instilled with that desire which is such a great thing to expose people to.

There’s also a surprisingly eventful story to it, a lot of it revolves around the constant threat of being killed or eaten by the nearby pyjama sharks, so named for their stripes, which are a repeated threat that the octopus must evade. It builds tension and suspense much like an Attenborough documentary, it teaches you about the animal and gets you invested in its story so that you are afraid for it, protective of it and shocked by any predator. The style is extremely effective, the combination of visual, narration and story progression is a winning one to hold onto your attention. It’s relaxing yet fascinating, the direction keeps such a close eye on its subject, you really get into the heart of its life, a creature that from far away you probably wouldn’t even be able to see with its impressive camouflaging skills. Yet it doesn’t forget to still take in the perspective of how much life there is in this tiny little kelp forest versus the vast ocean it lives within.

My Octopus Teacher is beautifully shot, wholesome and passionate, the bond that Foster creates with this creature is unbelievable and utterly mesmerising to watch. His narration is so open and loving, his voice is incredibly relaxing to listen to but is full of his passion for nature and education, it’s very clear how transformative of an experience it was for him and it’s a special thing to capture. There’s plenty to learn, it’s a surprisingly captivating story and you’d never have known that someone could have such a connection with a mollusc. It’s an enchanting viewing experience that is absolutely stunning to watch and a lovely reminder of how much we can learn about nature if we take the time.

Verdict: ✯✯✯✯½

Available on Netflix now!

4 thoughts on “Review: My Octopus Teacher

      1. Look for the article of Scuba diver Hiroyuki Arakawa and Yoriko. There’s print stories and video about it on You Tube. It’s the first thing I thought of when reading your review.

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