MARLIN: Coral, get inside the house, Coral. No, Coral, don't. They'll be fine. Just get inside, you, right now. No! […] There, there, there. It's okay, daddy's here. Daddy's got you. I promise, I will never let anything happen to you... Nemo.
This memory is pretty much the starting point for this entire movie and for good reason. It's the one moment Marlin can't forget about and that informs every decision he's going to make with his son. Marlin might not have been able to protect his wife and kids, but he's not gonna fail Nemo. No way.
DORY: I saw a boat.
MARLIN: You did?
DORY: Yeah, it went by not too long ago. Follow me… Would you quit it? What, the ocean isn't big enough for you or something like that? You got a problem? Huh? Do ya? Do ya? Do ya? You wanna piece of me? Yeah, yeah! Ooh, I'm scared now! What?
MARLIN: What? You said you saw a boat.
DORY: A boat?
Not such a great introduction. Dory has a memory span of about three-seconds, which can be a problem when you're meeting new people or going off on new adventures. Can this fish with short-term memory loss actually help Marlin?
DORY: I suffer from short-term memory loss. It runs in my family... At least I think it does... hmm? Where are they?
Oh, Dory. At least she remembered her diagnosis.
MARLIN: What did it say? What did the mask say?
DORY: P. Sherman, 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney. I remembered what it said! I usually forget things, but I remembered it that time! P. Sherman, 4...
MARLIN: Wait! What does that mean?
DORY: I don't know. But who cares! Ha ha! I remembered! P. Sherman, 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney. I remembered it again!
A breakthrough! We've already seen that Dory's a bit empty-headed and quick to forget, but here she's making real progress. Not only does she have skills—this fish can read English—but she even remembers a vital piece of information. Maybe this Marlin guy is good for Dory after all?
DORY: How about we play a game?
MARLIN: All right.
DORY: Okay, I'm thinking of something orange, and it's small...
MARLIN: It's me.
DORY: Right!... I'm thinking of something orange and small...
MARLIN: Me again.
We can't decide—would playing games with Dory be awesome or totally annoying because of her short-term memory? On the plus side, just like Marlin, you'd always win.
MARLIN: No, no, no! Bad trench, bad trench! Come on, we're swimming over this thing.
DORY: Whoa, partner. Little red flag going up. Something tells me we should go through it, not over it.
MARLIN: Are you even looking at this thing? It's got death written all over it!
DORY: I'm sorry, but I really, really, really think we should go through it.
MARLIN: And I'm really, really done talking about this. Over we go.
DORY: Come on, trust me on this one.
Sure, Dory struggles with calling stuff to mind when she needs to, but all the important info is there in her subconscious. She can read. She speaks whale. And she just knows they should not swim over this trench. Too bad Marlin doesn't think much of Dory's impressive skills just yet.
DORY: No. No, you can't. 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... I remember it, I do. It's there. I know it is, because when I look at you, I can feel it. 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.
And here's why Dory's stuck with Marlin this whole time. He helps her, too. Other fish don't tend to like her, but Marlin hung with her, and that's why she can remember again. She sees his familiar face—something she's been missing all her life.
NEMO: Are you all right?
DORY: I don't know where I am... I don't know what's going on. I think I lost somebody but I, I can't remember... and I can't remember...
NEMO: It's okay, it's okay. I'm looking for somebody too. Hey, we can look together.
DORY: I'm Dory.
NEMO: I'm Nemo.
DORY: Nemo? That's a nice name.
So close, Dory. So close. When Nemo runs into forgetful Dory all by her lonesome, we think for a minute that she might recognize him right away. Sure, her recollections have progressed, but not that much. It takes a little more than a name to jog her memory.