Hulu’s “I am Greta” is emotionally riveting and inspiring

Photo courtesy of European Parliament, Wikimedia Commons

On Oct. 23, “I Am Greta” was released to streaming service Hulu. The documentary followed Greta Thunberg’s journey from being one girl protesting outside of Swedish Parliament to becoming an international inspiration for climate justice. The film supported the need for change through a series of clips, voiceovers and footage from Greta’s life.

The film’s use of compilations was well-timed and emotionally effective. About midway into the documentary when Greta’s name was more well-known after she had spoken several times in front of world leaders, there was a compilation of youths from around the world leading their own local movements for change. Protest signs were held high as participants shouted for more people to take a stand.

Then, the documentary presented a compilation of Greta’s most powerful critics. President Donald Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin and FOX News characterized her as a clueless girl who was acting out of her depth. The documentary cut to a scene of Greta discussing the death threats she had received, and how she would not cease her work. She said, “I am more worried about what would happen if I didn’t do this.”

However, the documentary did not frame Greta’s determination as unshakeable. She admitted she often felt as though her microphone was muted for all the effect her words had on the people who had the authority to cause global change. The number of protests for climate justice was rising, but so was the level of atmospheric CO2. 

“It does not matter how many people go on strike. What matters is that the emissions are reduced, and it must start now,” she said in one speech.

The care taken in the documentary to show Greta exactly as she was, instead of portraying her as a larger-than-life hero, paid off. Clips of her eating with her family, video chatting with her dogs while overseas and using her recorder as a journal helped remind viewers that she was a teenager doing her best to balance a normal life with the opportunities she had been given.

The documentary did not shy from showing Greta’s neurodivergence. Unlike past media, this film did not frame it as a burden, a superpower or a disease. In one scene a reporter asked, “You suffer from Asperger syndrome, is this right?” Greta paused before replying, “I wouldn’t say ‘suffer from,’ but I have it.”

Greta and her family discussed how she has selective mutism, she likes routines and when she is interested in something she can get laser-focused for hours. Greta stated Aspergers helped her “see through the noise” when discussing climate change. She did not view the world as black and white, but to her the climate crisis was a clear cut issue: if change did not come, disaster would.

Greta’s justifiable anger and desperation were clear in every speech she made. Their revelation at the first UN assembly she spoke at was arguably the most satisfying scene. Before the meeting began, various attendees ignored Greta’s body language and posed with her as if she was a photo prop. When the meeting began and it was her turn to speak, however, their picture-perfect smiles vanished.

The last speech she made that was covered by the documentary was at the 2019 Climate Action Summit. “If you choose to fail us, we will never forgive you,” she said. “The world is waking up, and change is coming whether you like it or not.”

Change is coming. The documentary made that clear, but it will not come if people do not continue to fight for the message Greta has dedicated herself to spreading.

5/5 stars