ST. LOUIS — Greta Thunberg can see a threat on the horizon, so she is sounding the alarm as loud as a 15-year-old girl can.
Thunberg, the central heroine of Nathan Grossman's new documentary (streaming on Hulu Friday), "I Am Greta," isn't your normal teenager. She has essentially abandoned the glory days of adolescence-Instagram filters and beach days with friends-to spread the word about climate change all over the world.
Greta went on strike from school once a week, which seemed feeble at first. Early on in the film, she is seen sitting on a street with her sign being propped up, explaining her actions and motives. One older woman stops and starts to argue with her. Without raising her voice or getting disrupted, Greta responds and keeps her cool.
If you're sensing an order issue here, your aim is spot on. A young girl trying to get the world's attention about a threat that is right around the corner. Every bit of scientific data-yes, that scary factual stuff-backs up Thunberg's claims-yet no action is being taken. It's documentaries like these that help grasp the attention of the millions of fleeting minds, such as Alex Gibney's "Totally Under Control." Sometimes, filmmakers have to shine a gigantic light on the issue, with the help of a flame.
Greta is that flame. Grossman's documentary takes its time in gaining flow and momentum. There are times where you wonder if 10-15 minutes could have been chopped off. While most documentaries are decent and informative, few are as intelligent and blunt as this one. That helps sustain your attention over the slower parts-the film includes many subtitled moments-and helps set up the big finish.
Greta, being chastised for not putting her money where her mouth is when it comes to her means of transportation, rides on a wind-powered boat from her home to New York City. She isn't going there for pizza that folds or a tour of the Empire State Building. A couple years ago, she stepped off that boat and delivered a stern message to The United Nations.
You see, she has no filter. When you have Asperger's Syndrome, small talk is out of the questions. The disorder doesn't allow one to beat around the bush when it comes to a topic. During her speech in the Big Apple, Thunberg angrily rages against the powers that be for making her soak up valuable years of her childhood for the cause. A cause she had to pick up, because the suits were too lazy or uninformed.
But Washington D.C. and the highest branches of power in the country are informed, only choosing to disregard it like one of the 30 emails you get every day from Under Armour. She is determined to reach the end of innocence much sooner so the message gets across.
The best part of the 94 minute film comes during that boat ride to New York. A soulful moment that brings the film closer together, like a fist finally clinching. It's right there, with a single camera pointed at her, that Thunberg starts to think about another life where the world was on track and she was actually enjoying her life back in Stockholm. Tearfully describing all the things she's missing, family time and moments with friends, in order to save her planet.
It's a task that's only good for consumers if it's attached to the latest Gerald Butler thriller. If it's a 15-year-old girl, it's a longer process. But as the young Greta states late in the film, it's a fight that she is winning. In Sept. of 2019, seven million people went on strike to protest the planet. After all, if the government isn't going to take climate change seriously, why should kids take their own future seriously?
"I Am Greta" makes you think and knows how to deliver a message, just like Thunberg herself. Along with writers Olof Berglind and Peter Modestij, Grossman has crafted a film to be taken seriously.
2020. What a year for timely documentaries and if you take a look outside, the people need to keep listening. We all need a little fire like Greta's in our stomachs, at 15 or 55 years of age.