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Billy & Molly: An Otter Love Story Film Review

Billy Mail and his otter friend sit next to each other by the beach in the film Molly in Billy & Molly: An Otter Love Story

Billy & Molly: An Otter Love Story is an uplifting and stunning portrayal of the unspoken bonds between humans and animals.

“I never had kids. I don’t think people who do have them realize that there’s always a part of you that grieves a loss of something you’ve never had. You live with it, and you deal with it, but loss always runs a little deeper, perhaps.” These are the powerful words of Billy Mail in Charlie Hamilton James’ Billy & Molly: An Otter Love Story. Billy never had children, leaving an emptiness in his heart. Unbeknownst to him, he would become a father in the most unforeseeable, unique way.

After being away from his hometown for many years, Billy, his wife, Susan, and their dog Jade relocated back to The Shetland Islands for a better life. They bought a fixer-upper by the sea and were living an idyllic existence. However, something was lacking, and Billy felt a sense of unfulfillment. Yet, the events that followed would transform his life for the better.

An otter, whom Billy later named Molly, landed upon his jetty. She appeared underweight, weak, and in desperate need of care. Though Billy was unaware of what may have happened to the otter’s mother, he assumed Molly was orphaned, as, devastatingly, an adult otter had been hit by a car close by and found on the road. In the months that followed, Billy and Molly created a loving connection. Molly became the daughter Billy had never had, and without Billy by her side, Molly may have perished. Molly reignited a sense of direction and purpose in Billy’s life, and he allowed Molly to embrace self-sufficiency and soar. It’s an extraordinary, heartwarming story emphasizing the beauty of nature and our animal kingdom.

Billy’s wife, Susan, narrates most of Billy & Molly: An Otter Love Story, which enhances the experience and is a one-of-a-kind approach. Throughout the narrative, she gives her viewpoint of all her husband’s emotions and perceptions, even those he may have been reluctant to admit at the time. The pair have an infectious, nurturing presence, and Molly couldn’t have found a better couple to take her under their wings.

Billy Mail holds the hand of his otter friend Molly in Billy & Molly: An Otter Love Story
Billy & Molly: An Otter Love Story (National Geographic, SXSW 2024)

Billy takes time to learn the behaviors of his new adoptive daughter, Molly, allowing her to live a happy and fulfilling life. Similarly to when a child reaches adulthood and flies the nest, Billy encourages Molly to explore her habitat without solely relying on humans to function. He teaches her to fish and gain her independence. However, the door is always open should Molly ever wish to visit. He builds her a mini house on the Shetland property full of blankets and family photos. Molly’s techy, humble abode also has webcam capabilities, so each time the friendly otter returns home, Billy knows it’s time to go and say hello.

Billy & Molly: An Otter Love Story boasts stunning cinematography, which is no surprise given James’ background as a photographer for National Geographic. The Shetlands is a breathtaking setting, accompanied by the beautiful connection created between Billy and Molly as the pair spend quality time together. In one touching moment, the pair swim alongside one another in the sea. In another, Billy is canoeing, and a curious Molly jumps aboard.

Their bond will bring you to tears, and Erland Cooper’s elegant score further elevates the footage that showcases their endearing connection.Billy & Molly: An Otter Love Story is a stunning portrayal of the unspoken bonds between animals and humans and how creatures can uplift us, provide us with companionship, and give us purpose. It’s a story that will make you believe in fate over chance and that Billy and Molly being part of each other’s lives was the key to saving their own.

Billy & Molly: An Otter Love Story was screened at SXSW on March 9-10, 2024. Read our SXSW reviews!

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