Intriguingly high concept yet visually and structurally artless in the way of so many modern documentaries, Laura Gabbert and Justin Schein’s No Impact Man chronicles Colin Beavan’s yearlong experiment to reduce his carbon footprint as much as possible while living in New York City. Necessarily participating in the project are Colin’s wife, Michelle Conlin, and toddler daughter, Isabella. Giving up trash-producing luxuries such as takeout meals, as well as non-locally sourced food products, any form of carbon-producing transportation, and, eventually, electricity, the family comes off as admirable on the one hand—such extreme efforts on behalf of the environment can’t help but hold some allure for the eternally guilty liberal—and crassly commercial on the other since it’s difficult at times not to view the documentary as one long trailer shilling for the concurrent release of Colin’s book of the same name. This ambivalence animates the movie as you constantly weigh the sincerity of the enterprise, the ostensible premise of which is to inspire individuals to take the reduce/reuse/recycle ethos just a little further in their lives, against the protagonist’s self-promotional ambitions.
Click here to read the rest of Kristi Mitsuda’s review of No Impact Man.