Movie #136 2021: My Octopus Teacher (2020)

Can you tell that I was cramming in a few Oscar nominated films before the awards this year? I’ll be honest, I watched My Octopus Teacher over every other film nominated in the Best Documentary Feature Film category because something inside me said it was going to win. And guess what?! It did.

My Octopus Teacher took Netflix by storm when it was added to the streaming service last year, despite it basically looking like any other nature documentary. What makes it special is that it comes with a human story at the heart of it, as it tells the tale of how one man in South Africa found the octopus fighting to survive by itself in the wild. As he visits daily, Craig Foster develops a real connection with the animal, and the film documents how it happened and the bond they formed in the ocean. It sounds weird… and it kind of is. But it’s also an incredibly heart-warming and endearing story about the connection between humans and animals in the purest of forms.

Craig Foster Interview - Scott Ramsay

As a Cancerian, this spoke to me on a spiritual level. I’m genuinely obsessed with this octopus now, I swear to God. The stunning ocean landscapes were enough to draw me in, and seeing the water and the life within it up close and personal is so glorious to behold.

What Craig Foster managed to capture on film all on his own is simply outstanding. I understand now why this got so much attention this awards season, because it honestly plays out like a fictional feature film about a guy who loves the ocean and its inhabitants. You’ll feel like you were somehow there with him and it’s such a wholesome, warming feeling.

My Octopus Teacher has a bit of everything: drama, fear, love, curiosity, education… It’s put together similarly to many other documentaries, yet it feels completely different in that the majority of the footage is original and not manufactured 90% of the time. Simply breath-taking quite often, the only extra footage filmed are the interviews with Foster himself, which generally use his voice to narrate his real time footage rather than cutting to his face too often. Effectively, you miss next to nothing of the beautiful scenery because of the way the film is edited, and it’s wonderful.

Cinematographer | Roger Horrocks

To bolster that, the filmmaking itself is a extremely well done – I really liked that there were no gimmicks, no flashbacks, and it was clear and concise and told a complete story. Layered over the top of the visuals is a really rather beautiful score that rounds it all off nicely. 

Shamefully, I find it really difficult to rate documentaries, specifically because they’re always interesting to me no matter how well they’re arranged and presented. This one is a cut above, however, so 4 Qs it shall be.

At the time of watching, I wrote the following: “I’ll be really surprised if this doesn’t take home Best Documentary tomorrow.” Colour me even less surprised when it actually did.

My Octopus Teacher is available to stream on Netflix in the UK.

TQR Category Ratings:

Performance: n/a
Costume & Set Design: n/a
Overall Rating: 

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