Film

Josh Fox’s Doc ‘How to Let Go of the World’ Somehow Takes Climate Change Too Personally

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After speaking to several environmental experts, hiking for hours through the Amazon, and discovering just how momentous the threat of climate change is to humanity as we know it, documentarian Josh Fox made a film about himself.

How to Let Go of the World opens with Fox dancing to the Beatles because his small community on the Delaware River has just won a suit against a gas company. But that was the subject of his 2010 Gasland. Here we don’t learn anything new about that fight. Other things we don’t learn much about: the unprecedented drought in California; the connection between climate change and the Syrian Civil War.

Fox touches briefly on all these but shifts focus quickly. He speaks to an array of climate scientists but interrupts them via breathy voiceovers. At 35 minutes in, Fox grows overwhelmed by his guests’ foreboding predictions, proclaiming that he just can’t go on. So instead we watch Fox watch some cat videos.

The second half improves. Having fortified himself, presumably on Lil Bub’s YouTube channel, Fox travels the world to speak to international activists. In Peru, we meet a pineapple farmer who spends hours cleaning crude oil out of the Amazon using only a plastic bucket. In Ecuador, we meet an indigenous community that has exposed its government’s environmental crimes by filming a documentary. 

These portrayals, thankfully, are lent the gravitas they deserve. Back in New York City, Aria Doe, a community activist, tells Fox that “Climate change is about all of us.” Had Fox sustained this thesis, his film might have delivered a sense of global uplift. Instead, it sinks to a portrait of exasperating self-importance.

How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change

Directed by Josh Fox

International WOW Company/HBO Documentary Films

Opens April 20, IFC Center

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