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I think I’ve waited my whole life to type the sentence, “Ladies and gentlemen, this octopus is the Meryl Streep of octopuses.” You might be surprised by how few opportunities I’ve had, despite a lifetime of hanging out at all the local post-theater octopus boîtes. But! Like the arrival of both the sun each morning and the ten-pound Restoration Hardware catalog in my mailbox every Fall, the time has come.

The recent documentary My Octopus Teacher—about a South African diver named Craig who (after a spell of depression) happens upon and befriends a single octopus—has a pretty clear and simple message: get closer to nature and your empathy will increase (by a factor of eight is my guess). I won’t go into the details of how and why that happens; it’s a short documentary and a little low on plot, so to give away too much of it would be unkind of me.

But ohhhh, y’all, this octopus. I’m not certain how some parts of this were actually made. (If Craig is diving alone with his own camera—which we see him do quite a bit—who’s filming him do that?). But I fully believe that the octopus was up for multiple set-ups and re-takes and ready for her closeup if Craig had asked her, because let me tell you (drumroll please): Ladies and gentlemen, this octopus is the Meryl Streep of octopuses.* I’ve never seen an animal performance like it . . . which shouldn’t be that hard to believe since I was blubbering through the entire thing and couldn’t see anything at all, really.

There’s a lot of beautiful underwater footage of the kelp forest and other fish and pyjama sharks. (I mean: pyjama sharks! It was hard to take them seriously after he called them that until, well, let’s just say there’s a chase scene involving one that’s pretty much the most exciting chase scene since The French Connection and you just end up wishing The French Connection had had more octopuses in it.)

Craig learns some pretty moving Life Lessons after having gone through a difficult period, and you meet his son, who seems to be carrying on the empathy tradition that Craig passes on to him. All of that is worth your time too, but this thing really belongs to the octopus, who wraps all eight tentacles around your tear ducts and squeezes until you practically faint from dehydration. 

* Don’t @ me! “Octopuses” is the correct plural and you’ll just have to look up why. Something to do with Latin vs Greek and that’s when I nodded off. 

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About The Author

DG Strong took up knitting in 2014. He lives in Nashville with his sister, her rat terrier and a hound dog named Opal. He has a blog of drawings and faintly ridiculous rambling called The Psychopedia—there are worse ways to spend your afternoon.


  • I heard Craig interviewed on NPR a couple weekends ago and watched the film that night. Completely gobsmacked! I wondered too about how exactly the film was made, and how he swam for hours in Maine temperature water every day for a year, but the octopus pushes all that aside leaving you in awe. We’re so bombarded with special effects these day, when in reality, nature is the best special effect there is.

  • I’ve watched this twice now, and was overcome both times. It has only one flaw: it is too beautiful and engaging to knit to.
    Doesn’t swimming in cold water prevent dementia? I hope so, our fragile planet needs smart people like Craig in it for as long as possible.

  • This review was the best! Thanks DG. Tonight it will be toss up between My Octopus Teacher and The Crown!

  • Love DG. Look Forward to loving the octopus!

  • This sounds wonderful. If you enjoyed the documentary, read Sy Montgomery’s The Soul of an Octopus. It is the story of her relationships with octopuses over the years and is excellent.

    • Thank you for that recommendation, I’m sure most people have never heard of it. The cynical side of me (I try not to let it out too often) immediately pictured the infamous business meeting where a woman brings up a great idea and is completely ignored, then five minutes later a man says exactly the same thing and gets all the attention — “That’s great, Bob! Stupendous idea!” Then I imagine, when the documentary came out, Sy Montgomery having the same look on her face as the woman at the business meeting. Now I’ll put the cynic away and enjoy my Sunday morning. 🙂

  • LOL… there are multiple professional cameras on the market. Several strategically placed cameras and a head mount provide the answer to the question as to who was filming when he was diving alone. The film is gorgeously stitched together from hours and hours of recording. Truly it is a wonderful gift to all of us, and those hidden science geeks in all of us.

  • Best. Review. Ever.

  • Viewing this a few weeks ago (and sending the trailer to everyone I know), I too was interested in who was behind the camera and production –

    • Excellent interview- really enjoyed it, especially after watching the beautiful film. Thank you

      • I just finished viewing the film. Incredible! And thanks for the link to the filmmaker, very interesting!

    • Thanks for the link!

    • What a great interview! Thank you for sharing this.

  • We loved it too, but I think your REVIEW of it is even better.

  • When multiple friends and even a stranger on Nextdoor recommended this movie, we sat down to watch. It was so good! We really enjoyed it, and I learned a lot too! You can try knitting while watching, but I quickly gave up.

  • Will it be on dvd?

    • Some Netflix originals do make it to physical media (DVD or BluRay), but usually only the big ones like Stranger Things or whatever that make good collectibles or gifts, I think. But you never know.

  • Anything reviewed by DG Strong is the next thing I want to watch!

  • Have watched half of this film now after reading your review. Like, Double WOW! Am taking a break to take a breath since the pyjama sharks came back.
    Am so grateful for that “pause” button.
    No way is knitting possible!
    The scenery, the story, that incredible mollusk!
    Tuning back in now ….

    • It’s definitely not a “Knit to This”!

  • He was also interviewed on fresh air with Terry Gross. Highly recommend finding that interview. Thank you ladies for bringing in
    The knitters, the media and all else to enjoy during this time.

  • Ok I checked and there is one comment that mentions Soul of the Octopus by Sy Montgomery … I cannot recommend it highly enough! It’s a great read. It did remove my ability to eat octopus … which used to be one of my favorite things to do at Greek restaurants … but beyond that it is fascinating. I have told everyone I know to read it.

  • Nature is healing, if you only do one thing in your time on earth you will do everything to protect it!

  • I watched this documentary this week, it really struck a cord with me. I love the outdoors and daydream about having that kind of interaction with a wild animal… Certainly the cold water would stop me and holding my breath… nightmares of not making it to the surface in time!

  • “But ohhhh, y’all, this octopus.” For me, this says it all. Wonderful review of a wonderful film. I’ve been watching and rewatching since October.

  • Thanks for highlighting that amazing and moving film. I saw it in 2021, I think. Maybe on PBS?

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