No Impact Man: The Documentary (2009)
Critic Consensus: Half enviro-saving doc, half publicity stunt, No Impact Man is inspiring and fun to both casual activists and hardcore recyclers.
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Critic Reviews for No Impact Man: The Documentary
No Impact Man is a very confused documentary that somehow puts its confusion to good use.
This poignant, provocative documentary reduces the green movement to human scale -- and magnifies the size of mountain it's trying to climb.
A strange yet riveting portrait of a marriage enduring a year spent making as little environmental impact as possible.
Like reality TV, there are moments of drama that have an aura of awkward self-consciousness about them and incidents that feel, if not staged, at the very least orchestrated, amped up. But you have to hand it to Beavan and Conlin.
Whether gamely playing cards by candlelight or sneaking ice from her workplace fridge when Colin's homemade cooler fails, Michelle is the real star here, emotionally and dramatically.
Audience Reviews for No Impact Man: The Documentary
A man lives for one year without affecting the environment, which means he uses no electricity, eats only locally produced food, composts all his waste, and wipes his ass with a dishrag.
I think the main character of this documentary is not "no impact man" but his unfortunate wife. There are several scenes near the beginning during which it seems as though she's being coerced into doing this "project." I frequently thought, "If by the end of this she converts to his way of thinking, I'm going to accuse this film of Stockholm Syndrome. So, Stockholm Syndrome is the unintentional subject of this documentary.
That last sentence is half-joking. Michelle seems critical and selective in her conversion.
Colin Beevan occasionally seems like a blow hard mouthpiece, but these scenes are counter-balanced by some moments of sincerity.
Other critics have accused Beevan of performing a mere publicity stunt, but isn't it a stunt only if he uses a hair dryer on the weekends? I think you could criticize him for waiting six months to turn off the lights, point out that he doesn't have a clever way to prevent waste water, or accuse him of insensitivity when he powers his laptop to write his blog with donated solar panels but doesn't let his wife use the juice for the refrigerator. But I don't see anything dishonest about Beevan. He is well-meaning and idealistic, and those are necessarily bad things.
Overall, I don't think No Impact Man will do anything to change your life (or mine), but Beevan's question of what could we live without is certainly food for thought.
Quite honestly, the first thing that struck about Beavan's work, both tthe book and film, was 'why haven't I heard anything about this?' It is absolutely fascinating. Personally, I've already bought into the whole "green" movement, but it's really only after watching something like this that you realize the full extend of what you can cut out. Better still, it kind of causes you to think about what things you would and would not be willing to cut. I don't think anyone's defending consumer culture, but through laziness, ignorance, or lack of ambition, it's something we've all bought into. It's our entire culture really. I loved Michelle's observation that American roads and public places are created for SUV's, not people. We are all so completely indoctrinated into this way of life that to do otherwise seems revolutionary. Also, the Beavan's are incredibly likable. At times the film seems a bit stages, but they are not self-righteous are overall, they come across as decent people; they are not an unpleasant bunch to spend ninty minutes with.
Opened my eyes to quite a bit. I don't think I would go to the extremes that this family did, but I know there are a few things that I could change in my daily habits. I think it would be good for everyone to give this type of living a shot so that everyone can see just what they can do to help the environment.
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