While Dick Johnson is Dead seems to start in this direction, it actually veers down a different path entirely. About 15 minutes or so in, a crew member talks about the death of his own father which prompts a tender moment where Dick talks about the death of his wife. At this point, we realize the slapstick irony of the film's premise is secondary to what the film's actually about: the portrait of a kind and sensitive soul. A point illustrated even clearer when Dick talks about the childhood shame he had towards his own body and in particular, his deformed feet. We see a closeup of his feet as he describes this shame. What's illuminating is the way he describes it which is similar to how an elderly person often describes such things- not with the shame once felt, but with a sort of curiosity or amusement, almost as if it happened to someone else. I say all of this to say, don't let the premise of Dick Johnson is Dead turn you away (or draw you in too much). The film is more about Mr. Johnson living than dying.
While the film's title may be clumsy, Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed's film My Octopus Teacher is graceful and poetic. I'll end my superlatives there to simply say- Watch this film. Once you do, I'd then recommend Jane and March of the Penguins which work as excellent companion pieces.
Craig Foster is our soulful guide and narrator in My Octopus Teacher who immediately puts us at ease. Connoisseurs of Science Fiction say the genre at its best tells us more about the present than the future. Do great nature documentaries tells us more about being human than the animals or environments depicted? Ehrlich and Reed's film helps one, compels one, to consider his or her personal life and it's span along with one's own struggles and endurance and, at times, triumphs. It also reminds us how finite yet sublime we and our world actually are.
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