Climate Change is a terrifying reality that seems to be either forgotten or ignored by the current leaders in power. In the United States, progressive leadership is pushing for a Green New Deal that is now seen as a piece of legislation to blame for losses this election cycle. That said, the reality that 99% of co-sponsors of the bill won their house seats, and not to blame. Sadly, the countries in the Paris Agreement are failing their commitments to limit carbon emissions. At every level, the crushing reality of Climate Change is threatening the futures of Millenials and Gen Z and because of this, climate justice activists look very different than the college students tieing themselves to bulldozers and instead, look like a teenage girl, scared of the devastation coming to the planet, but not afraid to champion change. I Am Greta is a Hulu Original documentary about the young climate activist, Greta Thunberg.
I Am Greta is a compelling film that uses never-before-seen footage of Greta and her family to paint an intimate portrait of Greta’s struggles and determination. From Swedish director Nathan Grossman, the film begins where Greta’s journey does, with her one-person school strike for climate action outside the Swedish Parliament. Not only do we see video of the small girl leaning against the building where decisions are made for her and the rest of Sweeden’s future, but we see the intricacies that went into her determination to protest.
In about an hour and a half, Grossman follows Greta, her rise to prominence, and her galvanizing global impact as she sparks school strikes around the world. The film culminates with her extraordinary wind-powered voyage across the Atlantic Ocean to speak at the UN Climate Action Summit in New York City. But the best thing that I Am Greta does is capture Greta’s honesty, and the burden of responsibility she believes she carries to spark a change that will help reverse our planet’s calamitous path. It is clear that Greta has a deep understanding of the current situation and the weight her generation carries. But, we also get to see, above all else, that she is a child.
The film does a good job of presenting a portrait of a strong activist, moved by the reach of her work, but also shows the ways that climate activism affects her. And yet, she remains steadfast. She also shows a maturity in understanding her place in history, and routinely shifts conversations away from herself and towards the topic of climate justice, always using “we” and never “I.” In one particular scene, Greta makes an appeal to a room full of politicians, explaining that while the youth are cleaning up their mess, they can not be the answer because of how dire the situation is. She then retires to her seat, puts on a headset with a translation and one of the leaders begins to talk about toilet flushes across Europe. It’s a devastating moment, as Greta removes her headset. She narrates that she is unsure why she is even invited to meetings when all the politicians do is ignore her. She releases a scathing critique and they are just performative in return. They want to spotlight her for credit, to look like they are doing something. But in the end, she is put on the sidelines, with her speeches ignored.
Greta is invited to meet dignitaries, presidents, and celebrities, but she is just a child to them. I Am Greta does an amazing job of showcasing how Greta views the situation. To her, in the end, she knows they see her as a child, and she comments on how it all feels fake. But, she will not stop, even when her Asperger’s is used as a way to attack her, or conservative pundits call her a prop for her parents. We see a deluge of grown men attacking a child in a montage. This treatment impacts her, and clearly impacts her father, but Greta keeps moving anyway. Like the activists before her, it’s about the mission and not about herself. But it’s hard to watch as an adult looking in as she fields questions that focus on her Asperger’s in a negative light and seeing her have to answer questions about how she feels about being called a “brat.”
There is a fury in Greta that is palpable, with a hunger for change. But this means we get to seem moments where her determination causes stress to the point that she needs help, even when she won’t admit it. We get the chance to not only hear her father’s take on her activism but watch as the two bonds through their travels, pride, and love exhibited in every interaction. He pushes her, giving her the grace to shine, but also reigns her in to take care of her when she is too hard on herself.
The film itself feels at odds with how Greta views the necessary PR she must do. She sees climate justice as the important thing, not herself. She questions how people ask for selfies and tells her that they admire her. While the film only looks at Greta and not necessarily the growing movement of young climate activists, the credits display small clips from around the world and thankfully include a diverse group of speakers moving their communities. That being said, I’d be curious to know what Great feels about a film that centers her and not her cause.
All in all, I Am Greta is a stellar documentary that allows audiences to see Greta Thunberg’s determination but also reminds them that she is a child, carrying a responsibility that she should not have to shoulder but has picked up because the generations before her have failed. And for that alone, it’s deserving of a watch.
I Am Greta is now available exclusively on Hulu.
I Am Greta
- Rating - 8/108/10
All in all, I Am Greta is a stellar documentary that allows audiences to see Great Thunberg’s determination but also reminds them that she is a child, carrying a responsibility that she should not have to shoulder but has picked up because the generations before her have failed. And for that alone, it’s deserving of a watch.
Kate is co-founder, EIC, and CCO of BWT. She’s also a Certified Rotten Tomatoes Critic, host, and creator of our flagship podcast, But Why Tho? and Did You Have To?. She also manages all PR relationships for comics, manga, film, TV, and anime. She has an MA in Cultural Anthropology and Religious Studies focusing on how pop culture impacts society.