The Cradle Blog

Finding Dory: Our Mixed Reactions

The much-anticipated sequel to Finding Nemo was every bit as exciting, adorable and fun as we hoped it would be. There were plenty of goofy characters and cute baby animals to keep us laughing through the end. In addition to some witty humor, the movie also grappled with more serious themes of loss, abandonment, and self-blame, among others. While we think this movie was an overall positive experience, and will be for most adoptees, there are some weaker parts of the story and some tough emotions that may be difficult for some adopted children to watch and understand. 

In the first few minutes of the movie, we meet baby Dory and her parents. They are loving and devoted, and watch over her as she begins to explore her surroundings. Because of her short term memory loss, Dory’s parents use songs and games to encourage and teach her different ways to remember how to find home if she ever gets lost. But when Dory accidentally gets swept away by an undertow, we see little Dory lost in an unfamiliar place without her family and unable to remember how to get home. The movie has started out on a quite tragic moment with poignant feelings of loss and abandonment, and we watch as Dory quickly grows up and wanders around the ocean in search of her lost parents, slowly forgetting who she was looking for.

Her continued searching brings us to back to the present, when she starts to remember her family and sets out on a quest to find them, with Marlin and Nemo in tow. Hilarious misadventures ensue, the group gets split up a few times (don’t worry, Nemo and Marlin stick together this time), and many fun new characters are introduced. Sprinkled between these funny scenes, however, are more serious moments when Dory struggles with feelings of loss and abandonment, worries about how her parents will receive her if she finds them, and more. In addition, Marlin and Nemo worry about how their own relationship with Dory could change when she is reunited with her family.

The ending, of course, is happy, and Dory is able to piece all parts of her life together, but the feelings of loss, self-blame, and disappointment that Dory experienced may be upsetting for some children. For example, early on Dory believes that because of her short-term memory it was her own fault that she was separated from her parents. Another character later suggests this as wellin a moment of anger, but Dory challenges this by realizing that it wasn’t her fault—getting caught by the undertow was something out of her control—and that she wouldn’t lose someone she loves on purpose.

Additionally, at the end of the movie we find out that Dory’s parents have never stopped searching for her. While this is touching and shows how much we parents love our children, some children may identify Dory’s parents with their birth parents. However, many children, especially those who come from foster care, do not have birth parents who are actively looking for them as Dory’s parents were.

While there are certainly some issues with the way Dory’s relationship with her parents and her quest to find them are presented, there are still many positive things to note. Most importantly, when Dory finds her parents, Marlin and Nemo don’t just disappear. Dory also considers them family. We discuss love with our children often, and how the adoption circle means there are more people out there to love and care for them. Finding Dory illustrates this love well.

Overall, you may want to preview the movie ahead of time. Parents may find this film to be a good starting point for discussing difficult themes of grief and loss and could be a great movie for older children who understand the difference between their real-life situation and the one Dory faces. Younger viewers (especially sensitive ones), on the other hand, may struggle with some of the more difficult scenes and themes, so it may be a good idea to wait to watch or have a parent nearby to help digest.