Watching Finding Nemo as part of RAG’s Mental Health week fundraiser showed an entirely deeper current to the shallow ripples of this entertaining classic; suddenly I understood the real significance of this harrowing separation tale. The ocean surface acts as the mirror; held up to the face of the dry world, while the submerged becomes our reality. Marlin, our real hero, whilst struggling with paranoid schizophrenia and the inability to process his emotions (which of course leads him to project all his angst onto the great, dark ‘drop-off’) causes his oppressed son to break out of his anemone cocoon.
This is a story of the blind helping the blind. Marlin goes after his son, and is aided by the mentally handicapped Dory, whose intellectual development has been stunted by an untold repressed memory, from which her powers of recollection have never recovered. These two troubled characters of course begin to help each other on an emotional level along a great journey of physical and spiritual proportions. The destination: self-acceptance.
They encounter a series of haphazard characters, some friendlier than others, but each with a set of psychological issues that remind the audience of the real plight of our protagonists; the shark, Bruce, so full of self-loathing he has to lash out, the family of turtles which cling so fiercely to the E.A.C.; there is no place for the weak among them. This seascape is a cacophony of alter-egos, shouting for waiting-room acknowledgement, and of course they are all fighting against The Man. Finally, we have the Holy Grail; the elusive Nemo, the son and the only physically disabled character, which is ironically the most emotionally capable of all the characters. This is a classic case of the child having to assume responsibility for a mentally disabled parent. The frothy facade of this aquatic saga draws in an audience of all ages in order to spell out its message of awareness. Or maybe, just maybe, the mental (ill) health substratum is the net from which the audience can fully appreciate the entertainment value of this pelagic film.