Just Keep Swimming

If Finding Nemo taught us anything back in the early noughties, it was that sometimes the best thing to do is to follow the advice of Dory the fish, and just keep swimming.

We have a lot to thank Dory for, really. She may irritate us with her poor memory and naivety, but she is an immensely loyal little blue tang fish. Her unquenchable optimism and simple logic are the perfect antidote to the anxious clown fish Marlin, desperately searching the seas for his lost son.

Finding Nemo is a journey of character as much as a geographical trek across the ocean. Despite its title, the film focuses mostly on the story of Marlin and Dory as they team up to look for little Nemo, who has been unfortunately caught by a diver and joined a bunch of would-be escapee fish in a dentist’s aquarium.


Marlin first bumps into Dory – quite literally – as he charges off after the diving boat that has captured Nemo. Dory is “a natural blue”, bubbling with enthusiasm, naively brave in the face of a shark, and she happily joins in the shark equivalent of an AA meeting, chanting “fish are friends – not food”. But she can read, which proves invaluable in the search for Nemo, enabling the pair of them to hunt down P Sherman of 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney.

Dory’s insecurities show however when Marlin tries to shake her off, although a minute later she is unable to remember whether he is bothering her. Marlin underestimates Dory’s instincts and fails to trust her (a fault of which many of us are often guilty). Dory may be childlike and irritating in many ways, but she deserves to be given greater credit.

Marlin has become an overprotective and over-anxious father after his clown fish partner Coral and all their babies are lost – all except Nemo. He vows to never let anything happen to his only son, which pushes Nemo to defiantly test the boundaries in the Big Blue. When Dory hears of Marlin’s promise, she responds in disbelief: “You can’t never let anything happen to him, then nothing would ever happen to him. Not much fun for little Harper.” Contrast Marlin’s fearful attitude with that of the sea turtle Crush, whose relaxed, hands-off parenting at first shocks Marlin, but whose offspring seems to thrive.

Marlin lives in fear, whereas Dory lives in hope, giving everything a try and frequently making the best of a bad situation. She adds much of the comic value to the film with her memory lapses, her attempts to speak whale and her desperation at men and asking for directions. It seems rather fitting for Dory that she get her own story on the big screen. I’ve yet to see her make her title debut, but let’s hope it does justice to her sparkling character.

As a result of his travels with Dory, Marlin learns to trust others, accept help and not always be in the driving seat in life, as well as how to have a little fun along the way. Once they are reunited, Nemo shows a new respect for his dad, learning to listen to him and telling him he loves him, although it takes a separation for him to realise his father’s worth.

The film doesn’t offer the fairy-tale promise that Nemo will never get lost again, or that the stories of Nemo, Marlin and Dory are over. But all three characters are changed by their adventures, having learnt to trust and appreciate each other, and are better prepared for whatever the future brings.