Film Review: ‘Tomorrow’

Why is humankind so historically slow to change?

This is the question that is ultimately at the heart of Cyril Dion and Mélanie Laurent’s inspirational documentary, Tomorrow. It begins with the famous bleak study published in Nature a few years ago. You know the one. The one that spelled out in neat letters the certain doom the human race is facing unless something drastic is done about climate change. Despite such clear evidence, however, very little has seemed to happen to save our planet.

The reason why, one expert in the film suggests, is that we aren’t shown stories of what living a life of reduced consumption would be like. We only see stories of disaster and death, the end of the world and civilization. We equate, he says, reduced consumption to living in caves.

Tomorrow seeks to correct this course, telling its viewers a clear tale of what sustainable living is actually like and the steps we must take to get there.

Despite the bleakness at the film’s outset, Tomorrow doesn’t simply wallow in what might be the inevitable course upon which humanity has set itself. In fact, apart from the initial preface detailing the undeniable danger climate change is putting the world in, there’s hardly any wallowing at all. Rather, the film very quickly begins to provide solutions to the woes facing us on a global scale.

The smartest thing the filmmakers did was provide actual, real-world examples of ways agriculture has become less industrialized, economies have become more localized, and education (chiefly, the methods thereof) has become more diversified and student-oriented in efforts to restructure social and economic systems to be more in the hands of the people than in the hands of faceless entities. They show us urban farms in Detroit and France that feed the local populaces; towns in the U.K. that have created their own currencies complementary to the British pound in an effort to make their local economies more resistant to global change; making economies more like forests and less like monocultures.

This anecdotal evidence is compelling, but compelling tales don’t make for good evidence. That’s why, for the most part, the filmmakers back up these examples with evidence or explanation from leaders in the relevant fields, filling (most of) the holes I tried in poke in the logic or logistical possibilities presented to us.

But I could sit here and recount to you the film in its entirety and would not be doing anybody any favors. The real question here, as is the question with any persuasive essay, is whether or not its effective in its arguments.

The answer is, somewhat resoundingly, yes. The evidence the filmmakers have compiled make for a good argument to drastically change course from the bottom of our societal structure up, and it gives it in a very digestible, piecemeal way. The loose structure winds up being — introducing a topic, exploring it, and then moving on to the next segment explaining how we might achieve the given goal.

While Tomorrow begins as a film about climate change, it ends up being a call to action to totally revolutionize how economic, educational, and agricultural models of the world are structured, as it’s impossible to build a new house without a firm foundation.

In college, I took a class called Socialist Theory taught by Bertell Ollman (who is noted enough in his field to have his own Wikipedia page). Professor Ollman, in his attempt to change our mental imagery of revolutions, asked us to envision a revolution as it relates to its literal meaning: the turning of a wheel. Depending on its size, the force the wheel needs to turn can be great, its rotation slow, and the necessary labor intensive. But when the wheel has turned, hopefully, we have moved forward. And moving the wheel is always easier when everybody pitches in.

Now the only question that remains is whether the call to action will work. Will people see this film and write their congresspeople in droves? Will they take initiatives to start urban gardens? Will they try to do their part to make a better tomorrow? Will the film even be effective when not preaching to the choir? I don’t know. What the film is asking is a tall order. How many people want to rid politics of corporate interests for the betterment of the planet? Hopefully, people a lot smarter and with more drive than myself will go to a showing and become the human antithesis to everything that is wrong with this world. Tomorrow at least gives us a sort of road map, an idea of what roads to take to reach our destination. I know that I, at the very least, took a look at my thermostat after finishing the screener and compared the temperature at which I set it to the pleasant 73 outside. With a hint of guilt, I flipped it to the off position.

Tomorrow is a film everybody should watch at least once. Even if the solutions offered aren’t the best or most feasible, they’re at least a good jumping off point.

The film opens April 21.

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