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Tear Jerker / Finding Nemo

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Many agree that this is Pixar's first film that runs on underlining, tear-jerking themes, with WALL•E, Up, and Coco following suit.
  • Coral's death in the beginning, as well as the death of ALL of Marlin and Coral's other children. There were so many unhatched eggs... and only Nemo was left.
    • The reason Nemo has an underdeveloped and shriveled fin is because his egg was damaged in the barracuda attack (see the page image). So translating that to human terms, imagine that you're a father whose wife was killed brutally while you were powerless to do anything about it, and the killer also took all of your children, except for one boy, who is now permanently disabled. It is no wonder Marlin is such a nervous wreck when the story starts.
    • If you see the movie more than once, the beginning of this scene becomes sadder every time.
  • Marlin's paranoia about his son's well-being is what indirectly leads to him getting captured. The mere possibility that Nemo was about to swim out into open water is enough for him to abandon all rationale and scold him, refusing to listen to Nemo's side of the story that he was going to respect his father's wishes and not. Nemo ends up disobeying his father purely out of spite when Marlin finally says something that humiliates him in front of everyone present.
    Marlin: "You think you can do these things, but you just CAN'T, Nemo!"
    Nemo: (Tranquil Fury) "I hate you..."
    (Marlin's rage gives way to devastation.)
    • The entire rest of the movie is hinged on Marlin not wanting the last thing his son says to him to be "I hate you."
  • This is one of those films with undertones that the parents will understand just a little bit better than the kids. For example, you're more likely to relate to Marlin being worried about Nemo when you're a bit older and can better understand the danger, especially if you have children of your own.
    Nemo: It's okay, Dad, you can let go.
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  • The scene where Marlin is saying, "It's okay, Daddy's here, Daddy's got you." It's right after Coral's implied death, so the audience is still likely to be a bit sad from that, and Marlin promises he won't let anything happen to Nemo and then names him the name his wife wanted while he would've preferred "Marlin Jr."
  • The moment when Nemo tells Marlin, "I love you, daddy" and Marlin says, "I love you too, son".
  • The completely heartwrenching moment when Marlin sees Nemo pretending to be dead in the plastic bag and, believing his son to really be dead, gives up and leaves in defeat. Dory's reaction as well:
    Dory: Oh my goodness...
    • The reactions of the Tank Gang are roughly around the same, even if it's brief. Gill's voice and expression when he cries out to the apparently dead Nemo clearly show only one emotion: absolute horror.
      Gill: SHARKBAIT!!
    • For that matter, when Nigel returns Marlin and Dory to the ocean. He was so eager to help Marlin reunite with his son, and then all he can do is apologize.
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  • "I have to tell him how — old — sea — turtles — are...!" The fact that Marlin values this trivial little conversation he had with his son earlier, enough to express anguish about it, shows just how badly he wants to reunite with Nemo.
    "I promised I'd never let anything happen to him."
  • The scene where Dory actively laments her forgetfulness and expresses fears of forgetting her new-found friends:
    Dory: Stop! ... Please don't go away. Please? No one's ever stuck with me for so long before. And if you leave... if you leave... I just, I remember things better with you, I do! Look! "P. Sherman, forty-two...forty...two..." Ugh! I remember it, I do! It's there, I know it is, because when I look at you...I can feel it. And - and I look at you, and I...and I'm home! Please... I don't want that to go away. I don't want to forget.
    Marlin: I'm sorry, Dory. But I... do.
    • You can tell by the cadence of her voice that she simply yells, "Stop!" instead of calling out Marlin's name because she doesn't know it, implying either that she's already forgotten it or Marlin didn't care enough to tell her.
    • Made even worse by a scene later when Nemo finds her scared and alone in exactly the same place Marlin left her, desperately trying to remember what she needs to do.
      "I don't know where I am! I think I lost somebody, but I – I can't remember!"
    • Her whole plea makes it clear that she doesn't simply enjoy Marlin's company, rather he's the only one who helps her have a basic understanding of where she is and what's going on, and she knows that if he leaves her, that's going to stop in an instant. You can almost physically feel the thoughts slipping through her fingers the more and more she struggles to articulate, and the more emotional becomes due to her frustration.
    • While Marlin makes it clear for most of the movie that he'd love more than anything to get away from Dory, here, here he's so emotionally broken that he can't even muster what little love he has for her at this point. So much so that he leaves her stranded on the other side of the world without another thought.
    • It's even worse if you actually know somebody suffering from some form of memory loss. If it's bad enough, they really do forget who they are and where they are, and for them it's terrifying.
    • According to the director, Dory herself suffers of abandonment and self-acceptance issues, as Dory has this fear of being ditched by anybody she meets and tries to be as friendly as she can be in hopes that someone will stick around with her. With that in mind one most wonder how many fishes and aquatic creatures she has came across and befriended (or tried to befriend) only to be abandoned to her luck, which makes the two examples with Marlin above a bit more tear jerking, because basically she was being ditched once more by someone else she wanted to befriend.
    • Her entire memory loss becomes into Fridge Tear Jerking, after you had seen the sequel and seen what happened to her before meeting Marlin, also her line where she asks where her family is and asking Nemo if they are searching for father also become this, as the sequel reveals that she was had forgotten about them and she has been searching for them for years before she came across Marlin.
  • It gets worse when Marlin and Dory are in the whale's mouth, with Marlin finally realizing how overprotective and limiting he sounds. Some paraphrasing here.
    Marlin: You can't speak whale!
    Dory: Yes, I can!
    Marlin: No, you can't! You think you can do these things, but you can't, Nemo!
  • Shortly before meeting the school of fish, when Marlin tells Dory that he needs to continue his journey without her, Dory thinks that he doesn't like her and starts crying. It's really sad considering how well their interactions up to that point were, and Marlin is so upset by her meltdown that he immediately comforts her, saying he does like her.
  • Any time the this theme starts playing, (the beginning right before the opening credits, when Marlin or Nemo contemplates how to solve the main conflict, the scene where Nemo first hears about his dad's daring adventure to rescue him, and the very end).
    • Thomas Newman, who also composed the soundtrack the Andrew Stanton-directed WALL-E, has a knack for establishing ethereal atmosphere that can also tug at the heartstrings. The music that plays during the scene inside the whale is considered by Stanton to be the best track in the movie.
  • "Keep swimming! Keep swimming!" United forces and sheer will conquer life's dangers — and suddenly Dory's goofy little song means everything in the world. For context, a school of fish, and Dory, are stuck in a fishing net and have to swim down. All of them are chanting, "Keep swimming!", except for Dory who keeps singing her little song.
  • "Humans. Think they own everything". It's particularly jarring as it's the only line in a scene that is 100% Played for Laughs that's delivered seriously. Hearing that, it becomes surprisingly easy to empathize with a shark. Fridge Brilliance given the line was said by a mako shark, which are popular targets for trophy fishing.
  • Although Marlin is the undisputed master of the Adult Fear trope, Gill has his moments. Watching the clear desperation on his face as he watched Nemo be scooped out of the tank was enough to rival any parent. (He calls him by his real name which he only does a few times throughout the whole movie when he promises him that he's not gonna go belly up.)
  • When Nemo says, "Dad? ...I don't hate you.". It isn't extremely sad, but he still sounds a bit quiet when he says it, as though he thinks Marlin took him seriously when he said he hated him.
  • Upon rewatching, the scene where Marlin and Coral name their eggs is quite tragic.
  • In the E.A.C., when Marlin first sees Dory, facedown (he thinks she's in a coma, but she's just playing hide and seek), and it's obvious that he's completely guilt-ridden over her injuries.
    • Seeing Dory hurt in general is pretty hard to watch.
  • The scene where Marlin tells his story to a group of turtles in the E.A.C...
  • The scene after Gill's first escape attempt with Nemo, which almost gets the latter killed. Remember that Nemo is basically the fish equivalent of a 1st grader at most. It's hard not to tear up at least a little bit for the poor little guy when he curls under Peach's arm.
    Peach: Gill...don't make him go back in there.
  • A fairly subdued one. When Marlin and Dory are entranced by the anglerfish's light, Marlin says, "I...I'm feeling...happy. Which is a big deal. For me." Of course, it snaps right back to funny when they see the rest of the anglerfish.
  • Animator Glenn McQueen's In Memoriam at the very end, accompanied by the final orchestral sting from the score.
  • Some Fridge Horror here: When the duo meets Bruce, Dory just swims up to him and says hi. To a giant white shark! She's even willing to join him for a "party." She's lucky he was friendly, and given her personality, one may wonder how she survived that long, especially considering how many creatures she's clearly talked to throughout her life while trying to find her parents.
  • Speaking of Bruce, his relapse can be this. Bruce goes completely bonkers trying to eat his new friends. Imagine how he would've felt after coming to his senses if he'd actually succeeded.
    • The worst part is it's not even his own fault. He's merely a victim of an addiction he's worked so hard to overcome. This can be specially depressing for viewers who are recovering addicts themselves. Don't even get me started on how addiction can ruin one's relationships, though, luckily, the end of the movie shows us this isn't the case here.
    • Ditto for Anchor and Chum, as they desperately try to hold Bruce back. It can especially resonate with not on the friends and family of not only addicts, but those of anyone desperately trying to stop their dear ones from committing mistakes that would ruin their lives.


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