First things first, stop right now if you are planning on watching Finding Dory and don’t want any spoilers. It’s a great movie and I don’t want to spoil it’s surprises for anyone, so seriously, stop now!
Okay, so those of you who have seen the movie (what did you think? So good, right?!) will probably be thinking ‘eh?’ from the title of this blog post, but bear with me. When you think about it, Finding Dory, is basically a film about a fish with a mental health problem. In Dory’s case, this is short term memory loss. On one level, the movie can be seen as a very enjoyable, sweet, heart warming and very funny kids movie. And you can watch and enjoy the movie just like that as it is without reading too much into it, and that’s absolutely fine. It’s a movie to entertain and to be enjoyed after all. However, there are also lots of themes the movie touches on, and deeper levels (excuse the sea pun!) which explore some actually serious and important issues, including mental health, as I will outline below.
At the beginning of the movie, we see glimpses of how Dory became lost and away from her parents, and had to grow up alone. Her memory loss became so bad that eventually, she even forgot her parents, and forgot that she had been originally been looking for them. Dory’s ‘problem’ even causes issues with her newly-found friends, Marlin and Nemo. As Dory gradually begins to recall flash-backs of her childhood, but accidently leads Marlin and Nemo into danger, Marlin lashes out at Dory and tells her in effect to go away and forget, because that’s what she’s ‘good at’. Below the belt, huh! You know the harsh words stick with Dory throughout the rest of the film, as Dory mutters to herself about her lack of ability to remember, especially when she is feeling lost. I think we have all felt like that at some point or another, when we have perhaps become lost or doubted ourselves. However, perhaps this can be seen as a cruel-to-be-kind moment in retrospect, as in leaving her friends to go find her family by herself, it is Dory who leads the adventure essentially for the rest of the movie, improvising through the highs and lows of the journey until she of course, through many trials and tribulations and making friends along the way (notably the super quick and cool camouflage ‘Septupus’ Hank), she finds her parents and significantly, largely through her own judgement and abilities, which is kinda cool for a fish with short-term memory loss right.
Pictured above: a plushie I found of the ‘Septicus’ octopus known as Hank – he has a big heart really (three , in fact ;))
By the end of the film, I felt left with a sense of wonder, and almost a tear to my eye. Through the help and support of her friends (who essentially become part of her family), Dory gradually recovers a lot of her memory of her childhood, and her memory becomes stronger. She finds herself as well as her past, and you can see a renewed sense of confidence, and identity. When Dory and Marlin are admiring the view from the drop-off point and taking in its beauty, it really is a ‘take-time-to-stop-and-smell-the-roses’ moment, as Dory has become more one and at ease with herself and her situation. She accomplished something great, and something which she probably never thought she could do, and so here is a moment to feel proud and celebrate. That sense of achievement one gets from doing something we couldn’t do before or something we’ve been aiming for, that is a brilliant feeling of happiness I think we can all relate to at one point or another. As someone with experience of fighting and overcoming mental health issues (though still a work in progress in some areas), that feeling of achieving something which was perhaps once so difficult, especially when it was something you naturally did with ease prior to a mental health condition, is something like no other. It’s the stepping stones to confidence and independence, and for me, Finding Dory captures that journey perfectly and profoundly, with a lot of touching humour along the way.
So Finding Dory: a kids movie yes, and a very good one indeed. But it also has a lot of life lessons and messages underneath, about family, friendships, mental health…It shows us that if we have a disability or disorder, we should not feel guilty or bad about ourselves for things that are not perhaps our fault, or are not our strengths in comparison to other people, but rather, with the help and support of friends (or ‘pipepals’ :D), family and most importantly, belief in ourselves, we can uncover and realise our true abilities, and often those which we were capable of doing all along, we just needed a nudge and a helping hand to get there. And once we get there, we can look at the unknown of the drop-off point and rather than feel a sense of fear or unease, we only see a sense of wonder, and of what adventures might be possible today :).
I hope you enjoyed reading this blog post and hope that it inspires you to, once you have seen the movie, to perhaps re-watch and see what you think for yourselves about the potential, deeper messages behind the movie, and perhaps see the film in a new light – at least, this is just my opinion and personal experiences of watching the movie. Go see for yourselves and let me know what you think 🙂
Pic above: a shop display window for Finding Dory – how cute is the manta ray?