Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Movie Review: No Impact Man

Friday night I went to see this movie:
No Impact Man is a documentary that follows blogger Colin Beavan and his family during a year of "no impact" - in other words, no pollution, no packaging, no harmful chemicals used in their home, no food that was grown more than a few hundred miles away, no transportation an anything other than foot or bike, no elevators, no meat, no, um, toilet paper, no new clothes, no disposable diapers, and the list goes on.

As a girl who has become painfully environmentally aware in recent years, and who lives on a not-quite-exclusively vegetarian and mostly organic diet, uses only organic cleaning supplies, shampoos, etc., recycles, and has lofty idealistic dreams of one day growing most of what I eat in my own garden, the principles discussed in this movie weren't at all new to me.

But this folks lived in New York City!

It wasn't easy.

The movie found an interesting balance between being educational (pollution, sustainability, where our food comes from, what happens to the food-related animals and plants before they get to us, what happens after our chemicals get sent down the sink, etc.), and humorous. Michelle, Colin's wife, loved processed food, venti coffees, and retail therapy with a passion. During one scene in the movie she goes through her credit card bill for the last month before no more shopping. My jaw dropped at the prices of some of her clothing, but having friends who are into fashion, I can understand that drive. Her take on the state of the "no impact" year was often a source of comedic relief.

The couple's toddler daughter was excited and happy about each change, if she noticed it at all (including the cloth diapers, yikes) - she was a ray of sunshine who piped up with funny high-pitched quips here and there (yes, her cuteness was probably amped up by the movie's editing, but I liked it either way).

A lot of time was given to family dynamics. I didn't expect to see static about whether another baby would be tried for during the documented year. I didn't think that we would be privy to such emotional and usually private discussion, but there it was, lending a different human aspect to the highly environmentally-focused movie.

I wasn't at all surprised, however, I watched the couple's complexions become more healthy looking over the course of the year. A light came into their eyes by the end that (I assume) had been previously dulled by caffeine and gross-processed-food addictions (not to mention the exercise they were getting now - in that one year, Colin lost 20 pounds and Michelle reversed her pre-diabetic condition). Also, there's a difference between people who spend their lives staring at lit boxes and those who spend their time beneath the lit sky - cutting out TV does a body (and a mind) good, if you ask me.

One thing that I liked about No Impact Man's approach was that it wasn't "preachy" at all. Colin said over and over that no, everyone won't (and shouldn't necessarily) do the drastic things that he did. However, if people just cut back to the extent that they can handle and appreciate, then no one is worse off but lots of people, and animals, and plants, are a lot better off.

When asked what one should do if they only change one thing, Colin suggested joining an environmentalist club or organization. Sounds good to me! (plus, more sunshine and good karma can't hurt, right?)

After the movie ended, I exited the theater and was bombarded by the electricity on Lincoln Ave - lights blinking, engines revving, tiny lanterns along the sidewalk glowing. I'm not gonna lie, I was a little ashamed at what I now saw as waste.

Anyway, to the important question: Should you see the movie?
Answer: Yes.
The truth is, of the group of 5 that I watched the movie with, everyone didn't love every part of the movie. Things about the personalites can be a little jarring, frustrating, or annoying, but it's a documentary. That's going to happen. However, all things considered, the information and shift in thinking alone is enough to make the short movie a worthwhile dalliance. I'd definitely recommend it.

Today's whiteboard quote:
"Find a purpose in life so big it will challenge every capacity to be at your best."
~David O. McKay

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