Stream It Or Skip It: ‘I Am Greta’ on Hulu, a Powerful Portrait of an Activist at the Peak of Her Influence – Decider

Posted: November 18, 2020 at 9:56 pm


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It has been 117 weeks since Greta Thunberg first went on strike. Hulu exclusive documentary I am Greta chronicles a year in the life of the teenage Swede who became the unlikely and reluctant global face of environmental activism, starting with her renowned 2018 school strike and concluding with a two-week cross-Atlantic sailing trip because its environmentally sustainable and taking an airplane really, really isnt to New York to address the 2019 Climate Action Summit. And it may be one of the years best docs.

The Gist: Aug. 2019: A static camera fixes on Greta Thunberg as she sits on a sailboat, which bounces heavily on choppy waves. She describes the last several months of her life as a surreal movie. Cut to: images of devastating forest fires and floods, with the voices of world leaders, politicians and commentators disregarding humanitys effect on global climate change. Jump back to: Aug. 2018. Greta sits on the sidewalk outside Swedens parliament building with a hand painted sign reading SKOLSTREJK FOR KLIMATET. I dont need to translate it. You should know what it says. If you dont, well, Ill say it again you should know what it says.

Gretas father, Svante Thunberg, says she knows more about climate change than most politicians, partly thanks to her having an almost photographic memory for the facts and stats that interest her. She speaks plainly about the roots of her interest: She saw a film in school about climate change, and subsequently fell into a years-long depression during which she wouldnt eat or speak for long stretches of time. Eventually, she decided to act on her existential fears and speak out. She implored her parents to stop eating meat and traveling by air. She compiled fact sheets about how Earth is in the beginning stages of an extinction event. Her school strike became an international story thanks to social media and news outlets. Before she knew it, Arnold Schwarzenegger was talking up her activism, and she was standing in front of world leaders, fearlessly chastising them for their inaction and ignorance. The future of our planets children is bleak, she insists, and its very much the fault of the preceding generations.

The school strike became a global movement, with teens around the world ditching school to organize rallies and raise awareness for climate change. She and her father attend the rallies, traveling across Europe by train and electric car, sustaining themselves on organic beans and pasta. They go to the United Nations summit in Poland. Svante tries to get her to tone down the harsh rhetoric in her speech, and she refuses. Shes told shell be lucky to meet the U.N. secretary general; she ends up sitting right next to him, which doesnt affect her tone in the slightest: Since our leaders are behaving like children, we will have to take the responsibility they should have taken long ago. He looks bemused? A little pissed? Vaguely tolerant? Frankly, who gives a shit how he feels. Shes uncompromising, and she needs to be, and he needs to hear it.

Soon enough, Gretas having lunch with Schwarzenegger. She meets Frances President Emmanuel Macron, and he seems to not quite know how to interact with her. Shes not much for small talk; her brow is always furrowed. Behind her stern expression, Greta has an infectious giggle, but we hear it only rarely in this film. Shes frequently greeted like a rock star at rallies, taking the stage to the roars of thousands of school-striking teenagers. She meets the Pope. She gathers allies for her movement as she goes. Dickheads like Jair Bolsonaro, Vladimir Putin, Piers Morgan and Donald Trump insult and bully her, and she shrugs, laughs it off. We get glimpses of stressed-out Greta she misses her dogs, her horse, her sister, her mother but for the most part, in the moments shes in the spotlight, shes nonplussed by all the attention. She steps to the podium at a London climate conference: Is the microphone on? she asks. Is my English OK? Because you lied to us. You gave us false hope. Go get em, Greta.

What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: Thematically, I Am Greta is a logical extension of An Inconvenient Truth and its sequel. Its also a Snowden-like study of a prominent and righteous world figure captured at the peak of their influence.

Performance Worth Watching: A 16-year-old girl telling world leaders in so many words to get their shit together will not be upstaged here, there, anywhere, ever.

Memorable Dialogue: Why would I need an education if theres no future?, Greta retorts when a stranger asks why she isnt in school.

Sex and Skin: None.

Our Take: In one scene, an interviewer clueless, I might add asks Greta about how she suffers from Aspergers syndrome. She calmly replies that she doesnt suffer, she just has it. She considers it her superpower, and I am Greta is underscored by its omnipresence. Without Aspergers, would she have the singular focus to follow through on her urgent need to deliver the message about climate change? No, the film suggests. And thats why its a fascinating profile of Greta, and inspiring without being manipulative.

On one level, the doc is a portrait of personal sacrifice the bathroom on the sailboat? Its a bucket but Greta doesnt seem too interested in typical teenage stuff. Her quest isnt easy, but her father says it makes her happy, and its not a stretch to say its therapeutic. Its also a portrait of a physically small person with a loud, assured voice, a person who on one hand seems so fragile, a single life battling literal and figurative hurricanes and fires, but on the other, she exudes extraordinary strength, manifest in the courage it takes for her to look an existential threat right in the eye. Superpower? Sure seems like it.

I am Greta is biographically thin. Youll need to read elsewhere that her mother was an opera singer who traveled the world, but quit because her daughter insisted she stop traveling by airplane. The pragmatic aspects of her European tour go unaddressed (who pays for all the travel?), something that may have grounded the narrative somewhat. But the films occasional quiet, poetic moments transcend the divulgence of mere details. It assumes we already know how the ice caps are melting, and global temperature is rising, and weather systems are haywire, causing more intense hurricanes and wildfires than ever before you know, all the stuff Al Gore talked about, but didnt shove right in the faces of world leaders because hes a politician. I am Greta is a portrait of civilian power, of Gretas personal empowerment in the face of a greater purpose. Its poignant and potent.

Our Call: STREAM IT. I am Greta doesnt have to do much beyond capturing its subjects earnest, genuine charisma and it does so, quite capably.

John Serba is a freelance writer and film critic based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Read more of his work at johnserbaatlarge.com or follow him on Twitter: @johnserba.

StreamI am Greta on Hulu

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Stream It Or Skip It: 'I Am Greta' on Hulu, a Powerful Portrait of an Activist at the Peak of Her Influence - Decider

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November 18th, 2020 at 9:56 pm