July 16th 2016

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY 2016 election: Malcolm makes allies malcontents

CANBERRA OBSERVED Electorate shock: PM touches reality's live wire

WA BUSHFIRE INQUIRY Ferguson report a beauty, but now the fight begins

AGRICULTURE Sweet success for farmers in Queensland sugar market


ECONOMICS Ignore scaremongers; Britannia rules apply

PUBLIC POLICY WA Meth Strategy 2016 a most welcome first step

EUTHANASIA Measure of success of Dutch tests will be death

HIGHER EDUCATION Trigger warnings: an infantile tyranny

FREE SPEECH From disagreement to discrimination: section 18C, Part 2

AUSTRALIAN HISTORY Middle Kingdom brings eternal Now down under

MUSIC Weighing up sounds and silence in John Tavener

CINEMA Memory, self and family: Finding Dory

BOOK REVIEW Mao Maoing a culture

ERICH VON MANSTEIN: Hitler's Master Strategist

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Memory, self and family: Finding Dory

by Symeon J. Thompson

News Weekly, July 16, 2016

Life is a many-sided thing, and good stories find a way to explore more than one side. They tap into that which entertains, but also that which sparks thought, and that which sounds the depths of our souls.



The stories need not be a complete success to do this, and different stories do this in different ways. Pixar is especially good at such storytelling, so much so that even those movies it makes which are not awe-inspiring are still worthy explorations of deeper things.

In Finding Dory Pixar has returned to the depths of the ocean, to add more to the story they told in 2003’s Finding Nemo. That film was about a father finding his son; this one is about a daughter finding her parents. Both films are about finding one’s self through finding where one comes from, and why and how each character has ended up where he or she is.

The main action of Finding Dory takes place one year after the events of Finding Nemo, with flashbacks telling Dory’s story up to the events of that time. Finding Nemo focused on the story of clownfish Marlin (Albert Brooks) and his search for his son Nemo (Alexander Gould in the first film, and Hayden Rolence in this one), after Nemo was taken by a diver from the Great Barrier Reef. Marlin was helped by Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), a constantly cheerful blue tang with a knack for improvising who suffered from short-term memory loss.

In this film we are introduced to Dory as a child (Sloane Murray, with Lucia Geddes as the tween and Ellen once again as the adult), as her parents Jenny (Diane Keaton) and Charlie (Eugene Levy) try to equip her to deal with the world despite her difficulties. Dory’s memory problems were mostly played for laughs in the first film, but there were a few scenes that showed that her condition was not just a joke. This movie emphasises the challenges she faces as she becomes aware that she has a family and sets out with Marlin and Nemo to find them.


Hijinks ensue as the team heads across the ocean to the Marine Life Institute in California, where Dory teams up with Hank (Ed O’Neill), a cranky octopus who just wants to live in the safety of an aquarium but whom the Institute wants to release into the wild.


Finding Nemo was driven by a twofold conflict: Nemo was sick of his overprotective father, and so rebelled, thus leading to his capture; while Marlin was driven by post-traumatic anxiety as his wife and all his children, bar Nemo, were killed by a barracuda. Marlin had to learn to let go, and trust his son; and Nemo learned that his father was more than a worrier, that he was, in fact, a hero. This was intensified because Nemo had a bad fin as a result of the attack.

Likewise in Finding Dory, Dory’s parents are worried for her, worried that her disability will make her a victim of the world. But Dory is not the only sea creature with a handicap – there is Destiny (Kaitlin Olson), the shortsighted whaleshark; Bailey (Ty Burrell) a beluga who believes his echolocation is broken; Hank is missing a tentacle and is traumatised; and Marlin still has his anxiety. It is a story about how those with difficulties can find ways to overcome them, especially with the help of others.

The movie is sumptuously beautiful, with its incredible depictions of the world under the sea. Its story may lack the intricacy and nuances of the first film, but it is even more visually stunning. Of special note is Hank and his camouflage abilities. They may seem farfetched, but they are based in reality, as octopuses can change not only their colour, but also their texture, giving them an unbelievable ability to become practically invisible.

Tying in with the main film is the wordless short Piper that precedes it, the story of how a little sandpiper goes from fearing the ocean to embracing it. The visuals are so photorealistic that it almost looks like a documentary, rather than a drama. The humour throughout is good natured, while touching on more serious matters. It manages to do this without preaching, and by putting its messages at the service of its story, giving it an admirable balance.

Finding Dory is a story full of hope, one that says we can always find solutions to our problems, whether they come from us or from outside of us, and one that reminds us that we should seek to understand one another, rather than dismissing those who are different. It is a story that shows that finding ourselves needn’t be self-indulgent, but can be selfless, so that we learn to be better.

Symeon J. Thompson is a member of the Film Critics’ Circle of Australia (FCCA).

All you need to know about
the wider impact of transgenderism on society.
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