Swedish Saviour

As the title hints, I Am Greta is an up-close-and-personal portrait of Greta Thunberg. The teenage Swedish environmental activist burst onto the world stage just over two years ago, when she began sitting outside the Swedish parliament in Stockholm, calling for stronger action on climate change. Since then, after her actions caught a groundswell of support, she’s addressed the 2018 United Nations Climate Change Conference and been named Time magazine’s youngest ever Person of the Year. She’s also faced vitriolic hatred from internet trolls and condescending put-downs from world leaders.

Remarkably, Nathan Grossman – the director behind I Am Greta – was there from the very beginning. Tipped off about this girl sitting outside the Swedish parliament, he captured her on film sitting slumped with her cardboard placard and has stayed with her every step of the way. Accompanying her and her father, Svante, Grossman gets what you might call a ‘backstage pass’ into the Thunberg household. Some of it is revealing – particularly when it addresses her Asperger’s condition. With Greta prone to emotional outbursts, Grossman keeps the camera rolling throughout.

He was also present for the boat trip across the Atlantic, when Thunberg decided to sail – rather than fly – to the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit in New York. These are among the film’s most revealing moments, seeing Thunberg at her most fragile. Perhaps the film could’ve done more to focus on Thunberg’s mother, singer Malena Ernman, who represented Sweden in the Eurovision Song Contest in 2009. It seems strange that Svante, her chaperone throughout, seems to hog the limelight.

Grossman doesn’t offer any criticism of Thunberg – it’s a straight-up celebration of her, pure and simple, like an extended PR piece. Given how she’s been continually mocked by the likes of Trump, Putin and Bolsonaro, who seem unable how to get a handle on this adolescent upstart, it’s perhaps forgivable thatGrossman be so one-sided. After all, when you see the electrifying shots of Thunberg surrounded by crowds of well-wishers, it’s clear how much she’s affected millions of young people, inspiring them to take action. If nothing else, I Am Greta is a richly-deserved portrait of a unique young girl.

I Am Greta is in cinemas from 16 October. For more details, click here.

James Mottram