“People are starting to realize that this is no longer an Indian problem. And that’s the good thing. Because they’re starting to realize that if you drink water and you breathe air this is about you.”
Full disclosure, I have not read the book This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate upon which this documentary is based. So I won’t be getting into a discussion that details the differences between the two media. What I will say is this is narrated by that book’s author, Naomi Klein, and she was heavily involved in the creation of this documentary. It’s important to understand what This Changes Everything isn’t before you can truly appreciate what it is.
What it isn’t is a documentary which clearly outlines everything wrong with the planet in terms of climate change and then gives objective actionable steps to take. It’s not a blueprint for anyone looking for a way to reduce their carbon footprint, reduce their energy consumption, anything of that nature. So those looking for such a guide will do well to search elsewhere. So what is This Changes Everything? Well, simply put it’s a documentary which humanizes the discussion of climate change. Naomi Klein starts out the documentary telling us she doesn’t really like polar bears (which, um, okay I guess?). But she says that because the idea behind This Changes Everything is that the story of climate change is a human story. And not just a story limited in scope to one particular region, ethnicity or culture. Rather it puts a global face on what is in fact a global problem. From Canada to Greece to Asia and beyond the documentary takes the time to show what climate change really means in terms of the very specific effects it has had on each person interviewed.
At its heart it’s a simple idea. Klein proposes that we humans have viewed the Earth as a machine for the past few centuries, and doing so has brought the inherent problems home to roost. Just like a machine breaks down so too has our relationship with the Earth. Whether or not you believe in climate change there is no doubt that the fossil fuels we rely on are finite. And with the population of the world only growing we need another solution. So Klein puts forth the idea that we need to change how we relate to the Earth — our story, if you will. We need to realize we have a place in nature not as ruler but rather as partner. Whether or not that’s an idea you can get behind will determine how much you enjoy This Changes Everything.
It’s a beautiful film; even the desolation photographed has a kind of stark, heartbreaking beauty to it. I found it easy to watch and engage with, and while I expected it to be a documentary full of checklists of what to do and what not to do once I understood what the film’s message was I adjusted my expectations and enjoyed what I was viewing. It’s a slow burning film, taking its time to let the viewer hear what’s being said and see what’s being shown. If you are on the fence about whether or not climate change exists I’m not sure This Changes Everything is going to convince you. But it will assure you people are suffering. Watch the part shot in China and tell me you don’t want to immediately invest in surgical grade ventilator masks a la Bane.
My favorite thing about This Changes Everything (Blu-ray) is perhaps something unusual to note. The liner of the Blu-ray is filled with pictures. Not landscapes though those are there, too, but the majority of the people interviewed not only have their pictures included but each one lists their name and also their title. One thing I confess to difficulty with when watching a documentary with as wide a scope as this has is remembering just who each person is and how they’re connected. Sometimes this is solved by consistent use of subtitles but This Changes Everything‘s solution works much better for me. I really appreciate being able to connect the faces with the names and their roles long after the film finishes playing. I can recommend this documentary to just about everybody. Just about because I don’t think climate change deniers are going to find anything meaningful here. The film is not meant to convince people of the science behind climate change, it’s meant to provide hope for our future as a species for those who believe climate change is not only real but an area of existence where we humans can affect real and lasting positive change.
When it comes to technical specs This Changes Everything certainly doesn’t skimp. The Blu-ray is a beautiful 2.35:1/1080p transfer and though it combines interviews, news reports, interior and exterior shots alike there are no issues to speak of. As you expect the landscapes are the most beautiful elements however it’s clear care was taken to present the most aesthetically pleasing picture to the audience regardless of what we’re looking at. The audio is almost an embarrassment of riches, with two DTS-HDMA tracks to choose from, a 5.1 as well as a 2.0. Both sound full and clean and offer more depth than the subject matter calls for.
Bonus features include the trailer for the film, deleted scenes as well as an interview with executive producer Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity), director Avi Lewis and Naomi Klein.
If you don’t believe in climate change don’t bother. Though it provides examples of the effects, the message is not one of convincing skeptics. If, however, you want to engage with filmmakers who have a genuine passion for their subject matter and who took the time to ensure their product looks and sounds as pleasing as possible then This Changes Everything might just be for you.