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I Am Greta

By: Trevor Chartrand

Director Nathan Grossman takes an observational, fly-on-the wall approach with I Am Greta, a documentary that follows climate-change obsessed Swedish teen Greta Thunberg on her quest to raise awareness for the climate justice cause.  However, much like the politicians who aren’t listening to Greta, the hands-off, reserved filmmaking style fails to become involved enough in the issues to inspire a call to action of any kind.

The film takes a very interesting look at Greta behind the scenes.  Her family and home life are incredibly wholesome – with patient, loving parents who encourage her to chase her dreams and assist her on her journey.  As a young woman with Asperger’s syndrome, Greta grew up feeling isolated and alone, and she appears to like it that way – it’s when she gets her best thinking done.  She’s brilliant, inspirational and genuine, and as a character portrait this film paints a very clear picture of her life and who she is.

Her family dynamic appears to be healthy and strong, and the closest thing she has to a disagreement with her parents is a humorous interaction where Greta refuses to eat due to an apparent phobia of having food in public.  There’s a heartwarming purity to her family and the bond they share.

The film’s focus is on Greta’s character, and how she is impacted by the sudden changes in her life when her small-scale protest rapidly evolves into a worldwide phenomenon.  While it’s a great character study, the film fails to highlight the issues Greta’s fighting for.

The facts and the science of climate change and global warming are barely discussed in the film.  There is very little advice the audience can take from the film about how to improve their own personal carbon footprint.  Now let’s be honest: in a time of short attention spans and media saturation, an important film like this needs to lay it out for the audience – because they can’t be trusted to do further research once the credits roll.  Not to generalize, but the average movie goer most likely isn’t going to change their habits after viewing this doc.  Audiences will be inspired by Greta, by her perseverance, by her sheer passion – but her message is not documented thoroughly enough to encourage others to follow in her path.

Ultimately, this is a great personal piece that does an incredible job of documenting the life of a complicated young woman – there’s deep insight into who Greta Thunberg is and how she thinks, and viewers can understand her plight and see the overwhelming task she’s taken on.  In that sense, it’s a very entertaining and telling film.  Without a call to action though, the film isn’t doing enough – it’s not helping Greta to achieve her noble, albeit lofty, goals.  If the film had spent a little more time discussing Greta’s message, it could have been a powerful and influential work of art.

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