By John H. Foote
What is she like, this grave, serious, often stern 16-year old who was TIME Magazine’s Newsmaker of the Year in 2019, and brought piercing attention to climate change? Who was this girl, this Greta Thunberg?
In this extraordinary documentary we are given remarkable access into her life, her home, see her interact with strangers, however awkwardly, but see her with her parents and family. How refreshing it is to hear her laugh, to squeal with the goofy delight of a child because so much of her life has been about challenge.
Greta suffers from Asperger’s but claims it is her superpower. A brilliant student she has the unique ability to recall everything she reads and can be laser focused on things that interest her. Climate change terrified her, and she made it her decision to do something about it. Sitting outside the Swedish Parliament for weeks she slowly drew attention to herself and her cause and it was not long before she and her father were travelling Europe, the girl speaking at climate conferences and summits. Greta was an instant rock star wherever she went, but it was not easy on the shy, introverted young girl who also drew sharp attacks from the powerful figures she spoke out about. Called mentally ill, exploited by her parents, used by various agencies, condemned by Putin and Trump (no surprise there) her spirit shone through and every obstacle she faced she conquered.
Asked to speak in New York at the United Nations she adamantly refused to fly, so she and her very understanding (sometimes) father rode a sailboat across the Atlantic from England to Manhattan, braving massive swells and waves, illness at sea, the fears of being so vulnerable on the open ocean, all so she would not have to fly. Embraced by America, she was by now a world-renowned figure and her blazing speech at the UN where she pointed the finger of blame exactly at who deserved it.
It remains among the most galvanizing speeches of the 21st century.
Her voice quavering with anger, her eyes burning with rage, this was a speech heard around the globe, a speech for the ages.
And while the film explores her rise to becoming a world figure, it equally explores the fact she is a young girl struggling with a tricky affliction. She and her father do not always see eye to eye and Greta can be a very difficult, head strong young person. The film explores that she is not easy to be around.
This is what a great documentary does – teaches us, educates, enlightens. I knew of Greta Thunberg through her speeches, now I know something about the person she is. And I admire her even more.
A breathtaking film.
John H. Foote is a well-recognized Canadian film critic/historian who has been an active critic for 30 years. His deep love for the movies began at a very young age. He began his career as co-host of the popular TV show Reel to Real where he remained for nine years. While on TV he began dabbling in education, eventually ascending to Director of the Toronto Film School, where he also taught film history. After leaving the college to care for his wife, he returned to teaching at Humber College where he taught both Film History and Method Acting Theory. John has written two books: “Clint Eastwood – Evolution of a Filmmaker” and the upcoming “Spielberg – American Film Visionary”. He is currently working on two books, one about the films of the seventies and another on the films of Martin Scorsese. Through his career he has worked in TV, radio, print and the web. John has interviewed everyone in the industry (more than 300 interviews) except Jack Nicholson, he says sadly. Highlights include Martin Scorsese, Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep Robert Duvall, Jane Fonda, Francis Ford Coppola and Kathryn Bigelow.