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film review

Dolphin Man

Directed by Lefteris Charitos

Classification: N/A; 80 minutes


3 out of 4 stars

Jacques Mayol swimming with a dolphin in the dolphinarium of Marseille, 1977.Bruno Rizzato

Listen, it’s been a rough week (or month, or year, or generation), so I think we all deserve to watch a movie about a man who helps a baby otter swim.

Okay, that’s not really the point of Lefteris Charitos’s new documentary, Dolphin Man, but it is a small slice of the delightful whimsy contained therein. Chronicling the life of Jacques Mayol, who in the late seventies became the first person to “free dive” beyond 100 metres, Dolphin Man is a perfectly solid look at just what drives someone to break barriers.

Mayol, who was immortalized in Luc Besson’s 1988 film The Big Blue (played by Jean-Marc Barr, who narrates Charitos’s doc), embraced Zen Buddhism to help him descend to levels of the ocean without the aid of an oxygen tank – feats most scientists predicted would be fatal. Mayol is most at home in the water, and among his beloved sea creatures (especially dolphins), so the man is not exactly easy to love on dry land – but Charitos balances out his prickly persona with genuine awe for his immense, if unusual, talents.

Pair Dolphin Man with this year’s other how-is-this-athletic-feat-possible doc Free Solo, and prepare to bask in the joy of people achieving their (quite crazy) dreams.

Dolphin Man opens Nov. 9 in Toronto