In Disney/Pixar epic, underwater tale FINDING NEMO, the young clownfish Nemo meets the wisened Moorish idol Gil. Gil persuades Nemo to help the aquarium fish escape, but Gil experiences a godly sorrow when Nemo almost dies. Struck by fear and despair, Nemo doesn’t believe his father will save him until Nigel the Pelican reminds Nemo of his father’s love. Join us as we discuss these Christian themes and so much more on this episode of the Finding Christ In Cinema podcast.

For your convenience you will find each podcast segment at the time referenced below:

  • 00:00:00 – Introduction and Previous Episode Recap 
  • 00:02:09 – Movie Discussion
  • 00:18:18 – Christian Themes in FINDING NEMO
  • 00:27:58 – Listener Feedback
  • 00:37:20 – More Christian Themes in FINDING NEMO

Gil, Godly Sorrow, and Repentance  (2 Corinthians 7:10)

Good subplots enrich the storytelling by showing the controlling theme from another angle. Furthermore, there’s usually also some good character building along the way. As is most often the case in the best stories, the main plot would not have its full effect on the audience without the subplot. Imagine Hamlet without Fortinbras or The Lord of the Rings without Gollum; it just doesn’t work.

Likewise, Nemo’s subplot in the aquarium is crucial to our (Michael and Brenden’s) understanding the whole of Finding Nemo. Not only does it reaffirm the relationship between Nemo and Marlin from Nemo’s perspective, but it also espouses two of the several Christian themes in this film.

The aquarium belongs to the dentist that caught Nemo, and it is full of other fish that have been stripped away from their natural home. A pufferfish named Bloat, a starfish named Peach, and a Moorish idol named Gil, amongst several others, inhabit this new home. None of them want to be there, but they all make an effort to deal with it in the best way they can.

Gil, however, has a plan to escape the aquarium. He believes his plan will work so much that he once risked his own life in an attempt to carry it out. He bears the scars from that failed mission as constant reminders of his desire to be free. To Gil, the escape plan is perfect; he just can’t execute it himself. He needs someone smaller, quicker, and more nimble. He needs Nemo.

This image from FINDING NEMO shows Willem Defoe as Gil and Alexander Gould as Nemo.

Eventually, Gil coaxes Nemo into giving the escape plan a try. It seems simple in concept, but it turns out to be far more dangerous in reality. Nemo has to swim into the filter and jam the fan motor with a rock. Once the fan is still, he can swim up the pipe and back into the aquarium proper.

Unconfident in his own strength, Nemo lodges the rock incompetently. As he swims through the pipe, the rock loses its place, and the motor spins again, sucking Nemo closer and closer to certain death. Thankfully, Gil and the others pull Nemo out with some decorative seaweed, but the traumatic damage to Nemo has already been done.

Gil is then convicted of his sin. He was so focused on his plan to escape that he didn’t take Nemo into his consideration. Nemo was just a kid, and Gil expected Nemo to do what even Gil couldn’t do as an adult. This produces within Gil a godly sorrow that resolves itself into Gil turning away from his prideful plan.

Nemo Remembers His Father’s Love (Psalm 94:16-19)

When Nemo comes to the aquarium, the other fish notice how frightened and worried he is. They try to comfort him however they can, but nothing seems to work. The fact of the matter is that Nemo wants to return to his father and doesn’t have a means to do so.

This is the pressure point that Gil presses in order to coax Nemo into trying out his escape plan, as mentioned under the previous heading. If Nemo can help the other fish escape, he can escape, too, and rejoin his father.

Unfortunately, the plan doesn’t work, and Nemo starts to lose hope. Then Nigel the Pelican enters with the best news Nemo has ever heard: his father Marlin is on his way to Nemo. Nigel then begins listing everything that Marlin has already overcome – sharks, anglerfish, jellyfish, etc. – and as Nemo listens, his hope is renewed. With Nemo’s flame fanned into strength once again, he tries out Gil’s plan one more time, and it works.

This image from FINDING NEMO shows Geoffrey Rush as Nigel the Pelican.

It reminds me (Brenden) of a scene in John Bunyan’s opus Pilgrim’s Progress – a story that I’ve revisited since the new year began. There’s a subplot (heh) that takes place at a location called Doubting Castle. Christian, the protagonist, and Hopeful, his companion, find themselves imprisoned in the dungeon at Doubting Castle, where they are beaten regularly by the Giant Despair.

There comes a point when Christian, out of his own hopelessness, contemplates taking his own life. I go into more details in my personal blog post concerning this scene, but I’ll be brief here: Hopeful reminds Christian of everything the Lord of the Celestial City (aka God) has already saved them from – the monster Apollyon, Vanity Fair, even the Valley of the Shadow of Death. The Lord has already saved us then, Hopeful surmises, and He will do it again.

Once Christian’s hope is restored, he remembers the Key of Promise that was given to him at the beginning of the journey – the Key that will unlock any lock and shackle in Doubting Castle. Christian uses it to free himself and his friend, and they escape just in the nick of time.

Maybe this is the secret to freeing ourselves from doubt: remember the love that our heavenly Father has for us, remembering everything that He has already done for us, and then being confident that He will act again. It worked for Christian and it worked for Nemo. I’m willing to bet it will work for us, too.

Finding Christ In Cinema is the show where we discover Christian themes in movies past and present. Join us and together we’ll dig deeper into the silver-screen classics of yesteryear as well as the box-office hits of today. Brought to you by the Great Commission Transmission Network. View the complete show notes – including links to articles discussed – by clicking here.

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About Brenden Taylor

Brenden is an educational assistant and tutor by day and a theatre practitioner by night. He has his M.A. in Theatre Arts and is always looking for a good way to use stories to soften peoples' hearts. Find him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @LeviTheBeliever.
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