Not-bad climate change documentary This Changes Everything opens by trying to impress viewers with how different it is from other environmental-advocacy films. Author/narrator Naomi Klein explains that she dislikes most such jeremiads because they typically leave viewers feeling like there’s no way to fight the apathy and greed that have led to the Earth’s destruction.
But, ironically, This Changes Everything is at its best when it’s most like other climate change docs. Adapted from Klein’s book, director Avi Lewis’s cinematic call to arms is most effective when it uses the same scare tactics that An Inconvenient Truth employed to shock viewers into fearing for the CGI polar bears who face homelessness because of the unnatural melting of the ice caps.
Instead of polar bears, Lewis thankfully highlights shocking footage from Chinese documentarians’ presentations charting the high number of health-endangeringly smoggy days in various Chinese cities in recent years. This Changes Everything also capably spooks viewers with an animated presentation that cogently shows what will happen if we continue to voraciously mine for coal, thereby causing the Earth’s temperature to rise above two degrees Celsius. Relatively hopeful sequences, like beautifully lensed footage of German wind turbines that illustrates encouraging statistics, aren’t nearly as moving.
But Klein’s arguments hit home whenever Lewis interviews oblivious American climate deniers and greedy Canadian working-class oil drillers. This Changes Everything isn’t a game-changer, but it is jarring enough to be scary.
This Changes Everything
Directed by Avi Lewis
Abramorama and FilmBuff
Opens October 2, IFC Center
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 29, 2015