THE STORY – Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg leads a global movement on the climate change crisis.
THE CAST – Greta Thunberg
THE TEAM – Nathan Grossman (Director/Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME – 97 Minutes
By Josh Parham
In the highly political times we are currently living in, there is a broad landscape of topics that seem urgent to discuss. Even before a pandemic raced across the world, a whole host of grave issues that posed serious threats were the topic of many conversations. It can sometimes be difficult to parse through all of them, but it seems the issue of climate change is one that has become quite momentous. Films have been exploring the importance of this subject for years. Most would point to something like “An Inconvenient Truth” for being a major introduction to the public. The new documentary “I Am Greta” takes a look at the current activism with one inspiring figure at the center of it, and it’s an effective story of sacrifice and determination to see a better world.
The subject at the center of this film is Greta Thunberg, the teenage environmental activist who has garnered international acclaim for her efforts to bring awareness to the climate change crisis that has only intensified in recent years. Her youth brings a passionate declaration of her beliefs, and that persistence has led to her leading global movements and protests to bring more attention to this catastrophic situation. All of these important and daunting tasks are seen juxtaposed against her attempts to have some stability in her private life. Most of this comes from her devoted father who travels with her. Still, Greta stands in total resolve of continuing her fight to see a better world come sooner rather than later.
Director Nathan Grossman makes it known just how significant the issues at the center of Greta’s activism are, and one gets the immediate sense of just how urgent and necessary this determination is. The moments where we witness her rousing speeches that call on world leaders to take responsibility and act on these present dangers are incredibly stirring. There is also scathing anger and disappointment when inaction follows the shallow publicity stunts that politicians use her for. Her political life is one that brings important issues to the table, and tracking that escalation from humble beginnings to a full-fledged global movement is a thing to behold.
However, when the focus is away from the compelling drama surrounding the climate change advocacy, the film struggles to find the same kind of emotional resonance when it delves into the more personal sides of Greta’s life. This isn’t to say that the disruption to the stability in her life isn’t an important issue, especially as it pertains to a teenage girl that is missing out on notable milestones in her life that would bring a sense of normalcy. It’s just that these sections are nowhere near as compelling from a storytelling perspective, and it causes the pacing to suddenly crawl and interest to wane. It’s still a meaningful element to her story, but one that isn’t as invigorating as other sections of the film.
Still, none of this would be engaging at all if Greta herself was not such an interesting figure to follow. While the film has an obvious devotion to her, she always presents herself as a grounded individual. She takes on this mantle not out of a desire to seek celebrity status but out of genuine concern for the planet and its longevity. When one sees her clear recognition of the crushing responsibility she holds while also struggling with how much it mentally weighs her down at such a young age, it’s a devastating emotional moment. There is also an intriguing commentary on the ableist arguments used against her. While the subject of her Asperger’s diagnosis is never fully explored, it does provide another layer to her persona that reveals a pathway to her empathy and effective bluntness of communication. Contrasting that with how others perceive her is an interesting discussion that makes her all the more an intriguing figure.
“I Am Greta” is the type of documentary that wants to showcase an important subject to the world. This is seen both in the large issues that are affecting all the populations in the world along with the single individual who is fighting for change. It’s an engaging portrait that recognizes the vital work being done and just how incredible that is to be placed on the shoulders of a young girl. Even when interest fades in regard to the more mundane and personal explorations of her life, the result is still one that presents a great appreciation for the tireless efforts being seen. That should always be the goal of documentaries that inhabit these political conversations, and it is accomplished here.
THE FINAL SCORE
THE GOOD – A rousing and inspiring profile of a political movement and the dedicated leader at its center. The filmmaking emphasizes the importance of its main topic as well as establishing the intimate characterization of the main character.
THE BAD – The segments away from the political activism aren’t as engaging, which causes the pace to slow and interest to subside.