I Am Greta
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It likely won’t create any new converts, but its presentation carries the potential to remind her supporters what they’re fighting for, rather than simply relying on her to act in their stead.
With how much the pandemic has dominated the conversation of 2020, you’d almost be forgiven for forgetting other things on the doomsday agenda. And when it comes to one of the bigger talking points on the world stage, the issue of climate change, few people have brought as much attention to the need for action as Greta Thunberg. And just with the mention of her name, a million buttholes puckered in response, but in fairness, this isn’t the deifying doco some might think it is.
When portraying a subject as intriguing as Greta, the balancing act accomplished by director/cinematographer Nathan Grossman is remarkable. Covering her meteoric rise from the first school strike protest to delivering many a shared speech, the film consciously keeps Greta’s humanity at the forefront. We see her chatting and getting occasionally embarrassed by her dad, laughing/dancing off talking head detractors, and keeping a healthy amount of self-awareness about what she is attempting with all this. For a topic as dour as the end of the world as we know it, the sense of humour on display is rather refreshing, allowing Greta to be shown as more than the mouthpiece she is frequently lampooned/credited as.
It’s also fortunate that her autism, something she herself considers a major contributor to her worldview, is given an equally natural depiction. There really aren’t a lot of depictions that treat the topic this empathetically, yet matter-of-factly, where it doesn’t lean into either the bereft-of-autonomy, or the superhuman-next-stage-of-evolution extremes.
It’s in that even-handedness that the film creates that non-deifying air previously mentioned, along with its hardest-hitting moments. Along with depicting Greta as a relatively ordinary, if incredibly driven, teenager, it also doesn’t shy away from showing the strain of trying to convince the world to save itself.
It takes a special kind of person to want to change everything for the better, and while Greta is willing to take up the charge, it’s not without drawbacks. Missing her home (and her adorable dogs), the lack of stable routine, worrying that nothing will change despite her best efforts, all while struggling with the negatives of her condition; it brings a new dimension to her notorious “How Dare You” speech, revealing just how much real frustration was pouring out of those words.
I Am Greta lives up to its title with an intimate and clear-eyed portrait of its subject, showing Greta as a human with a once-in-a-generation ambition to fix the world, but a human nonetheless. It likely won’t create any new converts, but its presentation carries the potential to remind her supporters what they’re fighting for, rather than simply relying on her to act in their stead. And if wanting to make the world better is a sign of weakness, then strength is overrated.