Lessons Our Family Learned In Finding Dory

By Jessica Wolstenholm


Our family joined the droves of others who bought tickets for opening weekend of the latest Disney/Pixar collaboration Finding Dory, which set a box office record of $136.2 million. It’s been nearly 13 years since its predecessor Finding Nemo was released. The long-awaited sequel enjoyed a massive turn out and has quickly received critics’ positive reviews.

While the stats and reviews are all glowing, at the end of the day, I am still a mom of two little boys whose eyes and heart I guard closely. Disney movie or not, I am proudly one very cautious mom. So parent-to-parent, I’d like to share some of my thoughts on the newest animated feature to set a box office record.

Finding Dory stands alone as its own film even though it begins one year after the events of Finding Nemo. The affable and fun-loving Dory takes center stage and hasn’t changed a bit. She’s just as affectionate and yet forgetful as we remember her to be. 

Dory sets out on a journey to search for her family as bits and pieces of her memory come flooding back. She’s resolved to find them and in doing so, she begins a trek across the Pacific Ocean. She brings along her famous friends, Nemo and Marlin. Together they make the voyage to the Marine Life Institute of California, aka the Jewel of Morro Bay, where she is reacquainted with her old pal, Destiny the whale shark. She also makes new friends along the way such as an octopus named Hank and two idle and grouchy sea lions named Fluke and Rudder. Dory’s friends all work together to help her search for her family.

The over-arching theme of the movie is Dory’s drive and determination to “just keep swimming” despite the struggles along the way. Her seemingly one flaw is her forgetfulness and constant inability to remember. Some have touted this as a film that focuses on living with special needs. We actually viewed this as a great opportunity to speak with our boys about how everyone has something in life that they struggle with albeit a physical disability or some sort of adversity they must overcome. 

In another life lesson, we see the importance of choosing wisely the words you speak to others. Marlin, obviously frustrated with Dory’s continuous forgetfulness, strikes back with a few angry words during a stressful moment giving the audience a look into how one moment can leave lasting imprints on the hearts of others and drives home the impact of speaking life in these scenarios.

What is evident in Finding Dory is the deep, rich bond that exists between parents and their children. We identify quickly with Dory’s parents, who hover just a bit and are obviously concerned for their daughter’s consistent memory loss. They aren’t overprotective, instead they educate her on ways to live with her limitations including creating a shell pathway that will lead her home should she ever accidentally wander away. 

Although there are several emotional moments in the movie, the richest of those is when Dory, after refusing to give up on finding her parents again, has reached what feels like the end of the ocean and there, around a corner, she sees the most beautiful, almost breathtaking line of shells that lead her to home. 

In that moment, all parents will identify with the sort of unconditional love that would keep us from ever giving up on our children. This provided an easy, open door for us to discuss the great love we have for them and how God’s love is far more exponential than we can imagine. We related the shells carefully laid out to lead Dory home to what God has given us in His Word. The shells can provide a great metaphor for the grace and mercy that God willingly pours out over His children.

In the end, this visually stunning movie is a very simple story about being lost and finding your way home. Dory is driven to find her own way and is in search for herself and who she is along the way. We saw this as a film that gave us, as parents, an open door for discussion about who God is and who He says we are, and how when we go in search of Him we can truly find out who He created us to be. 

PS … don’t leave when the credits roll – hang on to see a few memorable characters from Finding Nemo as well!

Family Conversation Starters from Finding Dory:

  • What made Dory different from her friends? Can you think of things that are unique about you? 
  • What was Dory looking for?
  • How did you feel when Dory saw the seashells leading her home? How does God give us “shells” to point us back to him? What are some of those “shells” in your life? 

Find more movie reviews on the culture+media section of Minno Life!