I never thought Finding Nemo was any more than a heartwarming parent-child story that made everyone feel like hugging world ...until I stumbled upon this thread on Reddit that just ...changed everything. If you're prepared to let whatever remaining childhood innocence of yours crumble to dust, then take a deep breath, and read on:
Nemo is dead the entire movie.
The theory goes that Marlin only imagines one son survived when, in reality, his whole family was eaten by the barracuda. The movie is an allegory of his journey through the Five Stages Of Grief:
Step 1: DENIAL
"We block out the words and hide from the facts. This is a temporary response that carries us through the first wave of pain." Psych Central
Marlin's fiercely paranoid over-sheltering of Nemo is a reflection of his desperate struggle to deny the slaughter of his entire family. When he "doesn't let Nemo go to school", he just doesn't want to let go of his fantasy.
Step 2: ANGER
"As denial begins to wear, reality and its pain re-emerge. We are not ready. The intense emotion is deflected from our vulnerable core, and redirected as anger." Psych Central
Marlin realizes he "can't keep Nemo out of school", but scolds him fiercely when he tries to venture off beyond his control:
Step 3: BARGAINING
"The normal reaction to feeling helpless is a need to regain control – e.g. 'If only I had...' – We make a deal to correct our wrongs in attempt to postpone the inevitable." Psych Central
Marlin goes against every aspect of his nature when he embarks on a long and treacherous journey with a loud and dysfunctional partner in exchange for hopefully finding Nemo.
Step 4: DEPRESSION
"It's our quiet preparation to separate and to bid our loved one farewell." Psych Central
Marlin confronts the reality of Nemo's death when he finds him floating upside-down in the Dentist's office. He leaves Dory and swims off in grief and defeat.
Step 5: ACCEPTANCE
"It's not a mark of bravery to deny ourselves the chance to make peace. This phase is marked by withdrawal and calm." Psych Central
In the final scene, Marlin let's go, and freely allows Nemo to "go to school" where he knows he belongs.
And by the way ..."Nemo" means "nobody" in Latin
Wow this is depressing ...but actually kind of compelling? If it's true, I may need to start following my own 5 stages...