Film Review: 'My Octopus Teacher'
Film Review: 'My Octopus Teacher'

Film Review: ‘My Octopus Teacher’


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

Approaching the end of 2020, Netflix is ​​presenting an underwater documentary with an octopus as the main character. Craig Foster, a co-founder of the Sea Change Project, narrates this documentary.

Of the many documentaries about various animals in the vast ocean, this film appears a bit different, by inviting us to know more about how life is on the seabed.

As we know, many species and coral reefs on the seabed are very beautiful and must be preserved.

Craig Foster invites you to identify one of the seabed animals that makes him curious, namely Octopus vulgaris (scientific name-ed) or we know him as an octopus. In the narration read directly by Craig, it makes us also feel close to the seabed, especially with the octopus who takes on many roles in this film.

Octopus is a free sea animal that has eight arms with suckers with concave spheres on the arms that are used to move on the sea floor and catch prey. Its body is very flexible, so it can fit into very narrow rock crevices on the seabed.

The film opens with a visualization of the sea at dusk, and the tall kelp leaves towering. Many people say that the octopus is some kind of alien, but when we see and get to know this animal more closely, we will begin to feel similar in many ways. Certainly a different world for us.

At first, Craig found it difficult when the big waves came towards him, especially since the temperature in the water reached around 8-9 degrees Celsius. With that cold water temperature, it will be enough to make it difficult for you to breathe.

At that time, it seemed that Craig didn’t want to have anything to do with the world of cinema anymore because of all the problems that had befallen him. But it started differently when he began to sink to the bottom of the sea, holding on to the kelp leaves to carry him even lower. When he had met various kinds of animals there, he suddenly wanted to take pictures and record whatever he saw under the sea.

Craig saw a strange object to his left, a collection of empty shells shaped like rock. The fish that were there looked confused when they saw it. Upon closer inspection, it turns out that the octopus quickly came out of there and made Craig’s curiosity with the creature pop.

My Octopuse Teacher
© Netflix
As the title of the film, ‘My Octopus Teacher’, the narrator invites us to swim deeper every day to observe this one octopus. When Craig approached the main nest, he immediately saw the octopus he encountered. But unfortunately, the octopus looked scared and hid behind the thin algae, then wrapped around its body like a cloak, and peeked at Craig through a small gap.

From there Craig began to feel there was something unusual and must be learned in this octopus. Starting to think of a crazy idea according to him, what if he came every day without spending a day watching the octopus? Then on the first day, because he knew that the octopus had been disturbed by his presence, he left the underwater camera near the nest to see its activities.

Accompanied by slightly witty music, he showed the condition of the octopus approaching Craig’s camera. The octopus seemed curious about the shiny new object he saw on the seabed. He started to approach with the shield covering his body just in case something might happen. He started trying to touch with his 2000 tentacles and felt it was safe and he liked.

For Craig, it needs to be done regularly to get to know the environment where the octopus is. Because there you will be treated to views of the mist forest, and towering algae plants.

While exploring his surroundings, he noticed small caves filled with pajama sharks (octopus predators), striped skin and a strong sense of smell. Certainly a dangerous threat to the octopus and the animals around the shark’s nest.

The next day, Craig came back to see the octopus back. As he approached the nest, the octopus seemed to be waiting for his arrival so unexpectedly, the octopus stretched out one of its arms and began to cling to Craig’s hand. It made him surprised and happy because the octopus had accepted his presence. Since then, the octopus has not been disturbed by the presence of the narrator, so he can carry out his activities as usual.

My Octopus Teacher
© Netflix
Day by day Craig learns about the octopus’ activities. Starting from the body of an octopus that can be spiny, can be smooth, and can issue horns on their heads, and can camouflage with their surroundings. His daily life was just swimming, crawling. There was a time when two legs appeared and he began to walk using them.

Then another cuteness when he shaped his body like a rock and the rock seemed to be walking little by little. That was how he disguised himself to deceive his opponent.

The life of the octopus which is only 1-2 years requires it to survive on its own because it does not have parents like other animals. He must be able to survive by finding many ways to avoid enemies who try to prey on him.

My Octopus Teacher
© Netflix
On day 52, Craig began to prepare the tools needed in the water such as an underwater camera lens and other tools. One interesting moment was seen when the octopus started to follow him from behind accompanied by a funny sounding backsound, but at the same time, Craig’s lens suddenly fell quickly, making the octopus look surprised and move away quickly. It was like destroying the trust the octopus had in you. Since that incident, the octopus has not returned to its original nest.

Disappeared for a few days, Craig began to study the traces of marine animals around there, and it was very difficult to tell them apart, because they all looked the same. From octopus tracks, urchin heart tracks, fish tracks, and worm tracks. He felt he had to learn all that to meet the octopus.

Then Craig felt like a detective to find the whereabouts of the octopus which he said was an impossible animal to find. He started looking for the animals he preyed on, the marks of his attacks, to the small changes in the algae he passed. Finally, with his search for a week, he managed to find the octopus.

My Octopus Teacher
© Netflix
A tense scene is also present when the octopus is preyed upon by a shark that is after him. A chase ensued, the shark quickly swam following the smell of the octopus, the octopus was no less fast than the shark so that it overwhelmed its opponent.

Various ways have been used by the octopus to escape, because the shark has a very sharp sense of smell, it made the octopus lose part of its arm because it was bitten by the shark.

Craig, who at that time was only recording the tense incident, could only watch and only think of helping. If Craig started getting into the fight, all the fish would leave him.

When the chase scene is over, the victor is the predator. With the octopus’s arm missing, makes Craig wonder if it was his fault?

Many other questions came to his head. He felt, what happened to the octopus he also felt in him. Psychologically, we will begin to think about death and our own vulnerability, worrying about our family and others.

Previously, Craig had never felt sentimental towards animals. However, the octopus taught him to be sensitive to other things. Therefore he invites his son (Tom Foster) to come see the seabed with him.

Tom has been fascinated with the underwater since he was a child. Craig also tells a lot about how beautiful the underwater world is when seen directly. He also invited Tom to see the octopus he had been talking about.

‘My Octopus Teacher’ has received many awards, one of the biggest awards won by this film is the Academy Awards in the Best Documentary Feature category, and the BAFTA Awards in the Best Documentary category.

This film presents a very beautiful cinematography and allows the audience to enjoy the depths of the ocean.

We will be presented with a lot of visuals taken with a closeup camera, such as ocean particles, octopus tentacles, and marine animals such as jellyfish, small colorful fish. All these colorful marine animals are very interesting and not boring to look at. Coupled with a backsound accompaniment that makes you feel the underwater charm.

For those of us who like documentaries, especially with the world of animals living in the ocean, this reference film is worth watching.


Director: Pippa Ehrlich & James Reed

Narrator: Craig Foster

Duration: 85 minutes

Score: 8.3/10


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