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'Billy & Molly: An Otter Love Story': Warm Hearts in a Cold Scots Sea

,, | May 10, 2024 | By

Currently streaming on Disney+ and Hulu, National Geographic's Billy & Molly: An Otter Love Story is a nature documentary about a man and a wild otter. But, it's also a father/daughter story, of sorts.

From NatGeo:

When a wild otter in desperate need of help washes up on his jetty in the remote Scottish islands of Shetland, Billy, his wife Susan, and their devoted sheepdog Jade find themselves with a unique new member of their family. From National Geographic and Silverback Films, “Billy & Molly: An Otter Love Story” is a heart-warming story directed by Charlie Hamilton James and shot in 4K. This documentary film shows us how love can reawaken us to the beauty of nature.

Bill Mail, a native of the Shetlands, felt the call to return home, to a cozy waterside cottage. But his life with wife Susan didn't include children ... until Molly showed up.

In caring for a lone baby otter -- with help from Susan -- Bill learns something about the joys and fears of fatherhood. But in the end, Molly is a wild animal, and like all little things that grow up, eventually she has to go her own way.

Take a peek:


I can't imagine a more perfect family film than Billy & Molly. So, yes, there will actually be something new on Disney+ that is entirely suitable for the whole family.

Recently, I did a video interview with Bill and Susan Mail, and Billy & Molly director (and frequent cameraman) Charlie Hamilton James, who became another kind of family during the months it took to film the documentary.

The Mails had built an extension onto their cottage, so they lived there, with Charlie living in the now-empty cottage.

Here are some highlights:

On living next door to Charlie ...

Bill: But, there's a door between the two and that door was used an awful lot. We came and went and actually got to know each other on a much more intimate level because of that.

Charlie: Billy, Susan and Johnny, who's the second camera, and I, we're very close. We have a group WhatsApp, we chat almost every day. So yeah, we're very close.

And I think, I mean as a male friend, Billy's one of my closest in the sense that men are not very vulnerable and not very good about talking about emotions. But Billy's probably the person I talk to more than anyone else on that level.

So I think, and that's all sort of grown up through making the film together, and I think so, yeah. There was never a single cross word. I'm sure Billy and Susan had sometimes my back, but there was never a cross word.

We never got irritated. It was just a really lovely time.

We all spent together and I miss getting up at 5:30 in the morning having my morning coffee in their kitchen looking out the window.

On the "father-daughter" angle ...

Bill: How do I say this about me? I love animals. I love people. I just love living things that I can interact with.

It maybe sounds daft sometimes. It sounds daft when I say it to myself, but it's true. I've got a lot of affection and I love to give. I love my dog, our dog, and I love what I get back from it.

So Molly was always going to be ... the minute she showed any form of interaction and interest in us, she was always going to get loved to bits.

And yeah, that wouldn't have changed, the father-daughter thing ... nothing would've changed even if that other situation hadn't existed. But it did.

And yeah, in some respects, I think the most endearing thing for me was bringing Molly to a point of allowing her to become the best version of herself that she could be, which is something you want to do for your kids.

And then when she went off and had her own baby, that was icing on the cake.

On how Susan reacted to all this ...

Susan: To begin with it was a bit of "Ah, oh, here we go. What are you getting more fish for? Does he really, do you need to do this?"

Because I'm not, I am not, or wasn't, let me just say that I wasn't. I kind of am now. You can't beat them, you join them. But I wasn't a wildlife person myself.

And so yeah, he kept going outside. Billy's the type of person that if a hedgehog, he sees a hedgehog going across the road, he'll stop the car and get out and put it back on the side of ... that kind of thing.

Whereas I wouldn't drive over it. I'll go around it. So yeah, to start with, it's a little bit, "Yeah, here we go."

But this creature gets under your skin quite quickly, and you can't help but love, but actually love her because she's nosy. She's very inquisitive, she's very playful. She will come and see what's going on.

And we were sitting on the grass one night with just looking outside. We had friends up visiting, and I had a gin and tonic with a slice of lime in my glass.

I got up to go and refill the glasses, and she came over and took the lime from my glass.

She's very lucky that the gin was finished, but it's inquisitive nature of her just, you just smile. You literally just smile.

Below find my whole video chat with Bill, Susan and Charlie:


Portions reprinted with permission from Kate O'Hare's Pax Culturati blog at

Image: National Geographic/Jeff Wilson

Kate O’Hare, a longtime entertainment journalist, is Social Media Content Manager at Family Theater Productions.

Recent posts:

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