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Dolphin Tale 2 – Movie Discussion

Stacey Tuttle on September 17, 2014 - 3:45 pm in Movie Responses, Movie Reviews 2014

Bring your tissues…you may need them at Dolphin Tale 2! It’s touching, and though there are some sad moments, it was the rejoicing ones which made me teary. The movie is clean, uplifting, inspiring…and inspired by a true story…overall I have to say it was just refreshing. Aside from the feel-good factor, it also had some simple but powerful messages that are worth discussing, whether you are four or forty. There’s something in here for all ages and all walks of life, but let me focus on just two—one for kids and their parents, and the other for those of us who might be facing a change in life.

Kids and Parents:

Clay, Hazel’s dad who ran the animal rescue/aquarium announced to his daughter and Sawyer his decision to release Mandy back into the wild. Releasing Mandy was a tough decision because of the implications of her release. Law required that dolphins not be kept alone in captivity. Winter’s partner just died and so she was alone. Because she had no tail, she could never be released back into the ocean, which meant if they were to keep her at their location, she had to be paired with another dolphin…fast. It had appeared that Mandy might be the answer to that need…until Clay announced his decision to release her back into the ocean, rather than pairing her with Winter.

Hazel and Sawyer were just high school students, but they had been a vital part of the business. Hazel was furious at her dad—not only for his decision, but for the way he made it and announced it. It didn’t make her feel like the mature, valued part of the business that she was. When he told her he wanted to talk, her reply was, “No. You’re thinking you should talk and I should listen.” There was some truth to that. Clay wanted his daughter to comply more than he wanted her input…partly because he wasn’t confident in the maturity of her input. Hazel wasn’t interested in being talked to, she wanted to be heard as well. She wanted a dialogue, not a lecture. (Sound familiar?)

She spoke to Sawyer’s mom about it, and Sawyer’s mom gave her some great advice. She explained to Hazel that, “You kids grow up so stinking fast you kind of take us by surprise. Talk to him [your dad] the way you want to be talked to. Do something grown up. Take him to coffee.” Hazel’s response, until that talk, had been immature. She had been angry and pouty, giving her dad the silent treatment. Lorraine challenged Hazel to begin to act like the person she wanted her dad to see her as. So she did.

Hazel went to her dad, stated her case, and asked to see the data. She reminded her dad very matter-of-factly that she was born the year he started the rescue, so technically she’d been there as long as he had. She’d been a vital part and was qualified to make good, informed decisions, rather than simply being informed of them. She asked to see Mandy’s file and upon review, she came the conclusion her dad had come to—there was no good reason to keep Mandy in captivity. She was there for rehab, had been successfully rehabilitated, and was ready for release. While a sacrifice for all of them, especially Winter, it was the right thing to do for Mandy.

Part of the reason Clay was willing to listen to Hazel (rather than the lecture that would have likely taken place earlier) was the very mature, confident way she approached the conversation. I’m sure it felt a little risky to him to let her think things over without his persuasive commentary, but she asked him to give her space to draw her own conclusions based on the data, and he agreed. In the end, she came to the same, painful conclusions Clay did. And, because Clay was willing to go into that uncertain territory with his daughter, he learned some great things about her maturity, wisdom, and business sense.

It’s a hard transition to make, for a parent and a child, to learn to adapt to maturing roles in your relationship as you grow. There are really probably four parts to that struggle, at least—how you see the other person, how you see yourself, how you think they see you and how they really see you. These are hard things to sort out. Often, we think we’ll act differently (and/or feel differently) when someone treats us differently. Maybe. But often it’s the reverse, they treat us differently when we first act (and/or feel) differently. Hazel wanted her dad to treat her like an adult; she first had to act like one.

I once worked at a camp that talked a lot about how parents had to learn (especially in the teen years) to transition from cop to coach. Kids run from the cops, but are drawn to the coach. For Hazel and Clay it was a shift from boss to partner that they had to make, but the idea is the same. It’s hard to change from roles of subordination to equality, but the change is a must, and it’s one that teaches your child how much you value them as people. It’s a risky transition in so many ways. You can’t guarantee that your child will agree with you, will come to the conclusions you want them to. You are relinquishing a lot of control over their lives when you go from cop to coach, boss to partner. The potential gain is great, however. You will likely learn a lot about your child that you never knew. And more than likely you’ll find a shift in your heart towards your child, away from fear and control toward love and trust and respect…which will bless you both.

Questions for Discussion

  • Do you feel your parents trusts you to make your own decisions? / Do you feel you trust your child to make your own decisions?
  • Do you feel you get talked to, or listened to when you have to talk about difficult things? Is it a conversation or a lecture?
  • Would you say your parent is a cop or a coach in your relationship? A boss or a partner?
  • For Hazel’s dad to see her like and adult, she had to act like an adult. Is there an area in which you wish people treated you differently? How might you act differently so that they treat you the way you want? In other words, do you think the way you act/behave can affect the way people see you and therefore the way people treat you?   If so, what does the way people treat you tell you about the way you act…and how can you change it?
  • Is there an area in which your kid wishes you treated them differently? Can you discuss with them how they would like you to change, and how they might also need to change as well…how you can both partner in that transition?


For those of us in transition or in need of freedom

Clay’s vision was to run a rescue, not an aquarium. “Rescue. Rehab. Release.” That was his mission. Really, it’s the church’s mission, too. Rescue people from darkness. Rehab them from the habits and sins of their past, healing their wounds and teaching them healthier habits—the ways of Christ. Release them into the world, into the wild again, so that they might live the lives God intended for them to live…and rescue others so the cycle repeats. The church was never meant to keep its people within its walls and confines any more than Clay’s facility was. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free” (Galatians 5:1). When Mandy was healed, rehabbed and set free back into the ocean, I confess that I wept. It was so beautiful watching her become the thing she was created to be. She was created to be free. It would have been so easy to keep her in captivity as a friend for Winter, but even though that would have been a nice purpose for her life, it wasn’t what she was created for.

There was an underlying current in the movie, a theme, a message about purpose and freedom. Clay was under a lot of pressure, and not just from his daughter, to keep Mandy there. The board, the investors, the public, everyone was pressuring him to keep Mandy for Winter’s sake…and for the sake of the income that she drew. The public loved to come visit Winter which brought them a lot of money which enabled them to rescue more animals. Mandy would have been an easy sacrifice for the good of others, Winter, the public, other animals in need… but Clay’s challenge was that they had to be willing, not to sacrifice Mandy, but to sacrifice for Mandy. He wasn’t willing to compromise on the mission of his rescue. He felt that everyone had to live out their purpose, Mandy included, for the best of all.

They did right by Mandy, sent her out into the world to fulfill her calling, to be truly free. And they waited, not knowing if they would lose Winter to another aquarium with a female friend to pair her with, or if maybe God would provide another solution. The door closed, but a window opened, just in time. Hope came. She was so young that, if she survived, she would be too domesticated to be able to be released into the wild. She did, and she and Winter became the best of friends.

It’s a theme though, not just the story of the dolphins, so we see it again and again. Lorraine talked to Hazel about hospitals. “No one’s here because they want to be. They’re here because they have to be, and they don’t stay one minute longer than they have to.” Hospitals have a purpose, to get its inhabitants healthy enough to leave. We get that with hospitals though. We understand that no one plans to stay in a hospital forever. We don’t always get that with other things…like our home…like a good job or a good situation.

This was what Sawyer was facing. He had an opportunity to do an amazing internship at sea, but it would mean leaving the wonderful situation he had. He would have to leave his work at the CMA, leave his home, and most difficult—leave Winter. He didn’t want to leave any of it, and yet, it was an amazing opportunity of a lifetime.

Dr. McCarthy brought him a gift. A beautiful heirloom watch that only worked if you continually shook or thumped it. “The watch is…beautiful,” he explained, “but the trouble is it’s been in that box too long—it’s stopped working. Sometimes, you’ve got to shake it up again to get it moving. Too many opportunities out there, Sawyer, to spend your life in a box, no matter how nice that box is.”

We all know that we don’t want to linger long in a hospital. There are a lot of stages in life that feel an awful lot like a hospital…stages in life we are eager to leave behind as soon as we are able. But there are also an awful lot of wonderful stages in life that we aren’t eager to leave behind—beautiful seasons, guilded boxes, good families, fantastic jobs and bosses… and sometimes we don’t recognize that, though lovely, their purpose has been served…they aren’t meant to last.

I heard Beth Moore talking about this just this morning in her 1 and 2 Thessalonians study (the first lecture). She talked about how Paul and Barnabas had had a great partnership…but then they had a falling out. After that falling out, Paul met Silas (or Sylvanus) and Timothy. Timothy who became more dear to him than any one. Paul and Barnabas had a good thing going. It seemed a shame to break it up. Maybe though, God had been urging them to split up the dynamic duo in the spirit of multiplication. We don’t know…but when things exploded between them, as painful as that was, something new and tender and wonderful emerged. New partnerships, new ministries, new friendships… She made a point that sometimes we just want a repeat, but God wants to do a new thing, not a redo… a “remix” she called it—something fresh and different. We already had the first thing. It was great. It served its purpose.

When Hope and Winter were introduced, it was rough at first. Winter was different. She had no tail. She didn’t look or feel like the dolphins Hope had known, and she was scared and resistant. It took a little while, but they are inseparable now. The transition was hard for Winter, too. She went through a long spell of depression when her companion died, before she met Hope. Change is hard. We do have to suffer times of missing what was and of adjusting to what’s strange and different and scary. The question isn’t perhaps so much what the struggle may entail, but what is on the other side. The question is whether or not the gain is worth the cost. Just know that, like that watch, Jesus wants us to be more than just beautiful, he wants us to be useful and so he has to take us out of our beautiful box and shake us up a bit from time to time to get us moving.

Are you being urged to leave your box? Are you being thumped or shaken? Don’t despair. God has a plan for you good and His glory—and He’s got to get you moving you so you can be a part of it.

Questions for Discussion:

  • Rescue. Rehab. Release. How is this like the church?
  • In your experience, which of these (rescue, rehab, release) has the church been really good at, and what have they struggled with?
  • Have you ever been in Sawyer’s position? Not wanting to leave something wonderful, even though you feel you should? What happened?
  • Have you ever wanted to keep someone from leaving (even if it was to go do what they were made to do) because you wanted to keep them behind for your own reasons, or the good of someone else? (Like Hazel wanted to keep Mandy for Winter.)
  • Have you ever sacrificed what you wanted to free someone up to do what was best for them?
  • Mandy was created to be free… what do you think you were created for? What is freedom for you?
  • Have you ever felt that someone was keeping you back from being what you were created to be? Have you ever felt trapped?
  • Doing what was best for Mandy ultimately brought what was best for everyone. How might that principle be true in your life?
  • The change/transition was depressing for Winter, scary for Hope and stretching and testing for everyone else (stretching their faith, testing their character). Which of those do you feel the most when you are in a time of change/transition?
  • Have you ever thought about the fact that people in the Bible had to deal with similar changes in their lives? They too had to deal with change and transition and fear and uncertainty. They had to leave things and people they loved behind when God called them to go to something new. How does that make you feel, knowing that people in the Bible know how you feel?
  • Are you facing a change in your life right now that you aren’t very excited about? What encouragement can you take from Dolphin Tale 2, and/or the life of Paul as discussed above?
  • When you’ve had transition/change/loss in the past, what good things came from it that you wouldn’t have had otherwise?

Click here to read quotes from Dolphin Tale 2.


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