My Octopus Teacher

I watched the ‘My Octopus Teacher’ documentary on Netflix recently and it was great.

Here’s a quick summary…

A South African filmmaker experiences burnout and takes time out to reset.

Every day he starts ocean snorkelling and freediving, a beloved childhood activity which becomes a kind of cold treatment and mind therapy in one.

Facing the elements, he braves the frigid waters without a wetsuit, exploring the alien world just a few feet below the surface.

From shoals of fish to pyjama sharks and crabs to jellyfish, he communes with nature on an intimate level.

After finding a kelp forest and spotting unusual movement on the sea bed, his adventures with an octopus begin, which would last for over 365 days.

Cephalopods possess an unusually high level of intelligence and watching her in action, the filmmaker experiences just how ingenious these creatures are to survive and thrive in our oceans.

By spending so much time in the wild with his new accomplice, he’s able to make a host of unusual observations, many of which aren’t even documented in the scientific literature.

Luckily for us, in the course of their extended encounter, the filmmaker develops a renewed sense of passion and purpose, encouraging him to film his experiences.

As such, the documentary focuses on the duo’s relationship as they break down the interspecies barrier and become friends.

Unsurprisingly there are a few highs and lows, as he becomes increasingly fond of his study subject.

The story also touches on the filmmaker’s relationship with his son, who often accompanies his father on the expeditions and learns to love the water just as much.

In this way, it’s not simply a tale of one man and an octopus, but rather a message with a deeper meaning, showcasing the joy derived from a simple life and a testament to the power of less.

In a world that’s forever implying that we need more to be happy, it’s a refreshing reminder that simple pleasures exist all around us, if only we’re present enough to truly experience them.

It also wonderfully highlights the healing properties of nature and our responsibility, in an age of climate change, to protect the creatures that rely on our finely balanced ecosystem for survival.

Highly recommended.

P.S. If you’re into sci-fi, try pairing this with Children of Ruin by Adrian Tchaikovsky (after reading Children of Time first), which is an awesome story about Octopi, but in space. It doesn’t get much better than that.