Movie Review: No Impact Man – The Documentary

I’m going to repost this old review that I did when I was blogging on the previous incarnation of this site. I consider it to be an oldie but a goodie.

No Impact Man is one wing of Colin Beavan’s multi-format documentation of his year spent striving to not impact the earth.

I have not had a chance to read his book, and probably won’t, this shouldn’t be seen as a huge knock against Colin and his admirable quest to reduce his impact. However, I, like many others am growing a bit fatigued of the “Do something for a year and then sell a book about it” concept.

This isn’t to say that there haven’t been some great projects born out of this framework, but once I’ve read a half dozen or so, I’ve pretty well had my fill.  My personal favorite of this genre was “Not Buying It”, worth a read if you aren’t tired of this genre as well.

On to the movie itself. I believe this film is intended as a documentary of Beavan’s book writing more than his actual journey to no-impact land, and as such seems to have more of a focus on the impact of this project on his wife and their relationship. At one particular point in the film Colin himself even comments how “Reality-TV like” the conversation between he and his wife feels, and he is speaking the truth, many of their exchanges seem somewhere between survivor and a marriage reality show.

Relationship spotlight notwithstanding, it was interesting to watch the stages of the project unfold on camera as the Beavan household moves from a relatively standard middle-class Manhattan household to living a relatively primitive existence without cars, elevators, electricity, toilet paper, detergent (well, they do have Borax), and all the trappings of our current middle class lifestyle.

But in the end, I just couldn’t connect with the Beavans and was left wondering whether they give the environmental movement a bad rap.  As I watched their film I wavered in deciding whether to label them as fringe lunatics or spoiled yuppies and I just couldn’t get the thought out of my mind that despite all the publicity of their sacrifices, they are still living a life much more comfortable than many of the world’s citizens.

My final rating is 2/5 stars. There are some redeeming moments and the film is easy enough to watch, but it is nowhere near the best in class.  Topics covered will be familiar and almost rote to anyone with a background in sustainability