Parents' Guide to

Becoming Cousteau

By Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 10+

Riveting docu about French icon; smoking, undersea violence.

Movie PG-13 2021 96 minutes
Becoming Cousteau Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 14+

Based on 1 parent review

age 14+

Real death/corpse

That’s reviews to Warren with maybe others have already said: in the first third of them show, there is footage of the crew bringing up the dead body of one of the divers. The crew continues to try and resuscitate the diver but ultimately fails. This was probably the first Time my daughter has seen a portrayal of a real death. I have Tried to address this as straightforwardly as possible since she is 11 years old. There’s also a lot of smoking which is to be expected from the time period.

This title has:

Too much violence
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say: (1 ):
Kids say: Not yet rated

This is a fascinating, educational documentary about the legacy of a complicated man whose singular focus on the ocean cost him personal relationships but earned him international renown. Cousteau is the living embodiment of the song "Brandy," which is about a man whose life, love, and lady was the sea -- in Cousteau's case, the vessel Calypso. In fact, even his first wife (of nearly 50 years) Simone was so dedicated to the sea (she was the daughter, granddaughter, and great-granddaughter of sailors) and to Calypso that the couple sent their two sons to boarding school most of their lives so that Mom and Dad could spend their time on the ship.

The documentary deftly weaves in archival video footage as well as audio of various interviews, and Cassel's narration of Cousteau's correspondence is evocative. Garbus doesn't shy away from discussing Cousteau's flaws, whether it's his early collaborations with the oil industry, his and Simone's parental negligence, or how Jacques favored daredevil son Philippe as his heir apparent over the apparently passed-over Jean-Michel. Although Becoming Cousteau isn't a scandalous tell-all, it would have been good to explore more about how Cousteau also had a secret family with his second wife, Francine, while he was still married to Simone. He married Francine just six months after Simone's death -- something that the French may not dwell on or demonize but that will be harder for other viewers to gloss over as a positive "new beginning" when he'd been cheating for more than a decade. Probably the most integral and impactful aspect of the documentary is tracking Cousteau's evolution as an ocean conservation activist -- what he spent his final years passionately advocating for around the world.

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