She Is the Ocean

Movie review by
Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media
She Is the Ocean Movie Poster Image
Girl-power docu offers soothing assurance and eco plea.
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 99 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Educational Value

In one segment, an aspirational figure explains why sharks are misunderstood, why their conservation is important. Another segment highlights an oceanographer who discusses marine biology of ocean depths and explains why human behavior is destroying our most vital resource. Featured women show an array of ways in which they find happiness, healing, professional pursuit in the ocean, which serves as an invitation to young viewers to explore new interests.

Positive Messages

Full of positive messages -- both personal (be yourself, find your calling) and ecological (save the ocean from pollution, shark conservation). Also themes of family, friendship, science, and nature. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

The nine featured females are diverse across age spectrum and are all leaders in oceanic pursuits that have been traditionally male dominated. They embody courage, intelligence, perseverance, passion, gratitude. Several also successfully demonstrate communication as a way to achieve goals. Cinta Hansel (the kid of the group) lives in Bali; scenes of her participating in Indonesian cultural practices.

Violence & Scariness

Video of sharks being mutilated, killed. Discussion of surfing accidents, including one that took the surfer's life, another in which the surfer's face was cut open, with some images from operating table. Many quick images of animals dead or in peril from polluting the waterways through oil, plastics, etc.

Sexy Stuff

A peck on the lips. Swimsuits are mostly sporty, but a couple are cut to reveal butt cheeks. 

Language
Consumerism

Quite a bit of footage from sponsored events, and many athletes are also sponsored, so brand names and logos are everywhere (including Billabong, Red Bull, Paul Mitchell, Volcom, GoPro, Tag Hauer, Ripcurl, Bud Light). A woman drives a classic Mustang. Potential product placement with an Apple laptop.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Glimpse of a grainy photo of a person who appears to have a cigarette in his mouth.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that She Is the Ocean is a surf and sea documentary that profiles nine women as oceanic heroes. In between awe-inspiring scenes of waves and marine life, the featured women, all in different stages of their life, explain their relationship with the sea. One talks about the challenge she faced as a woman pursuing a male-oriented sport. Another swims with sharks and is dedicated to overturning the idea that the predators want to kill humans. Another broke a glass ceiling as the first female chief scientist of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Woven in among these stories is that of young Indonesian competitive surfer Cinta Hansel, who dreams of conquering Hawaii's dangerous Pipeline. Almost every story shows the importance of family in the women's lives, and other positive messages abound: "You can do it," "be true to yourself," and "save the ocean." There's no strong language, and nothing gets racier than a quick peck on the lips, but younger or more sensitive kids might be upset by quick cuts of sea creatures in peril and dying, including sharks getting their fins sliced off and animals covered in muck.

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What's the story?

SHE IS THE OCEAN introduces nine incredible women whose love for the ocean has transformed their lives. Surfer Keana Kennelly talks about the challenge she faced as a woman pursuing a male-oriented sport -- and then, after she broke in, her difficulty in landing sponsors who deemed her not feminine enough. Conservationist Ocean Ramsey swims with sharks and is dedicated to overturning the idea that they want to kill humans. And Sylvia Earle is an underwater explorer who became the first female chief scientist of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Woven in among these stories is that of young Indonesian competitive surfer Cinta Hansel, who dreams of conquering Hawaii's dangerous Pipeline. Whether it's the thrill of waves to conquer, sea life to protect, or finding a sense of calm and peace, these women from around the world share their symbiotic relationship with the sea.

Is it any good?

Oceanic cinematography is art, and the profiles of accomplished women are poetry in this soothing and inspiring documentary. It revels in the gorgeousness and variety of nature's enormous pool and its inspiring and gentle message. Surf film enthusiasts will likely enjoy She Is the Ocean more than those expecting a more traditional documentary, because it doesn't follow the usual beats. While it definitely has messages about activism, there's no sense of urgency, and it's a bit difficult to imagine a setting where you'd sit down and watch it. It feels more like the kind of thing you'd watch while taking a break at a science museum or that might be running in the background at a dive shop. 

The film's premise is to show how women are analagous to the ocean, mighty with a mysterious depth. That crunchy concept may be a little too ethereal for most, and the movie's pacing flows like a stream rather than pounding waves. But it works in at least one regard. The gorgeous shots of barrels, swells, underwater ballet, swimming with sharks, paddling alongside whales, and cliff diving, paired with each woman telling her story in a relaxing voice, creates a calming Zen experience. It's almost like a perfect bedtime story, whispering to our young girls: "Embrace your sweet dreams; you got this."

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about their own relationship with the ocean, if they have one. If you haven't had any/much experience with the ocean, what do you think it would be like?

  • Do you consider these women role models? Why or why not? Would you call this a feminist film?

  • Does this movie promote activism? Does it motivate you to take action? How does it compare to other documentaries you've seen?

  • How are courage, communication, perseverance, and gratitude demonstrated? What other character strengths did you notice, and why are they important?

  • What does Cinta Hansel mean when she says, "My heart was pumping so hard, but that made me braver"? 

Movie details

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