The most fascinating thing about the Hulu Original documentary I Am Greta may very well be the intriguing human being at its core, the just turned 18-years-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg.
While this isn't particularly a bad thing, after all the film is called I Am Greta, it may prove to be a little disheartening for the singularly focused Thunberg herself. Thunberg's life has, it seems, been almost exclusively focused on climate action since the days of her one-person school strike for climate action outside the Swedish Parliament. Swedish filmmaker Nathan Grossman follows Greta - a shy schoolgirl with Asperger’s – as she rises to prominence with an unwavering and galvanizing global impact starting with the school strikes she inspires worldwide and culminating with her astonishing wind powered voyage across the Atlantic Ocean to speak at the UN Climate Action Summit in New York City.
I Am Greta isn't a particularly ground-breaking documentary, though it's never less than a completely engaging one. Much of this engagement comes courtesy of Thunberg herself, an almost jarringly honest and transparent human being whose relentless willingness to speak her truths to a world that doesn't always want to listen has endeared her to activists worldwide while also subjected her to the similarly relentless spewing of hatred from naysayers and those who would simply dismiss her young voice because she's, well, young.
If you've ever seen the early images of Thunberg's initial days of activism, you know very well that it started with, quite literally, just her outside her school with a hand-printed sign and a steely will. That steely will got noticed and grew, quite obviously, into something much, much more. From an audience of zero, Thunberg has spoken to the likes of the World Economic Forum, United Nations, and governments worldwide. She's as willing to take on those who pretend to support her positions yet actually do very little as she is those who openly argue against her. She's bold and she's brash, but I Am Greta also reminds us of her humanity. She's a remarkably intelligent and well spoken young woman, but when all of this started she was still in her mid-teens and as capable of laughter and tears as the rest of us.
Thunberg has long acknowledged her Asperger's, a disability to some yet a diagnosis that Thunberg regards as a strength. There's little denying, one could easily suppose, that some of the most common traits of someone with Asperger's have most likely contributed to Thunberg's seemingly innate ability to let scathing criticisms and even threats simply roll off her.
Quite bluntly, she knows she's right and she's also quite confident that those who most vehemently hurl insults are the least informed to argue against her.
Grossman for the most part takes a hands-off approach here in following Thunberg (and quite often her father), a realistic approach for such a committed activist whose focus is much more on the actual activism than building any sort of relationship with the camera. While Thunberg is certainly cooperative here, this isn't a cinematic exercise in ego or narcissism. Grossman's camera even follows her as she boats across the Atlantic to a U.N. appearance, an effort to remind those around her of the difficulty of the sustainable life and the great lengths we'll all have to go to in order to take true climate action.
For those of you who've sort of found yourself wondering about Thunberg, I Am Greta should provide you the honest, authentic glimpse you need into the teenager whose voice has been heard around the world. While the documentary doesn't necessarily break new ground, it covers familiar ground exceptionally well and tells an intimate, revealing story about one of this generation's most intriguing activists.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic