A documentary by Nathan Grossman. Rated PG. Opens Friday (October 16) at Cineplex Odeon International Village
Greta Thunberg’s life feels like it was written for a film. The teenage environmentalist’s story, from her lone climate strikes outside Sweden’s parliament in 2018 to sailing across the Atlantic to attend the UN Climate Summit in 2019, is full of pathos, triumph, danger, death threats, and breakdowns. Her speeches emboldened other young people to take to the streets and demand action to fix the world.
I Am Greta director Nathan Grossman captures the humanity of her larger-than-life tale with an unnervingly close look into her interior life. We’ve seen the viral speeches, but Grossman only includes clips of them. He is more focused on Thunberg as she reads hateful comments, listens to Trump and Putin spew venom about her, and has anxiety attacks before addressing the UN, all the while grown adults ask her for selfies that she uncomfortably agrees to. We also see as she laughs with her father, dances in an empty room, and grooms her dog, Roxy. She says living with Asperger’s keeps her hyperfixated on the climate crisis.
Greta is an accidental hero of our times propelled to the world stage seemingly overnight, but that status suffocates and stifles her, as this doc highlights. She clearly feels an immense burden and responsibility but also seems uncomfortable being known so widely. Grossman positions her as a girl at odds with a hypocritical establishment. As all the summits and meetings with presidents and diplomats like Emmanuel Macron blur together, Greta feels burned out and used.
The doc avoids revelling in the sappy, feel-goodness you might expect if a North American filmmaker were telling this story. As she sails from Plymouth to New York City to show the world how difficult it is to live sustainably, she’s not a triumphant champion but rather a girl on the edge of desperation, hoping someone will finally pay attention.