(2008)3Kimber MyersNew York City-based author Colin Beavan could adopt the opening lines of the Elvis Presley hit "A Little Less Conversation" as his personal mantra. Rather than just speaking his liberal opinions on environmentalism, Beavan decides to take a radical course of action: for one year, he, his wife, and their two-year-old daughter will strive to leave as little of a mark on the environment as possible. They won't take the subway (to say nothing of cars), they don't use toilet paper, and they turn off their electricity. As seen in this documentary, the project not only serves as a political statement and a one-family crusade for the earth, but it is also the basis for Beavan's next book and his blog.
Though Beavan is gung-ho about the idea, his wife, writer Michelle Conlin, is less than excited about the prospect of year without shopping, takeout, diapers, and coffee. The film not only captures their individual struggles with the No Impact Project, but it also chronicles the friction in their relationship as they attempt a new lifestyle while they make a life-changing decision about their family. Though No Impact Man works on the level of a film about a single man's activism, it is also a portrait of how his work affects his relationship with his wife and child. In addition to the internal pressure, Beavan also experiences stress from outside his home as well. When media outlets pick up the news of his experience, he becomes a target of both ire and mockery for his efforts.
Filmmakers Laura Gabbert and Justin Schein have created a documentary that works best as a conversation piece. It's not revolutionary in its construction or execution, but it provides talking points for environmental discussions. Few would argue that they actively want to destroy the world, but Beavan actually does something drastic to back up his stance. No Impact Man is no dry treatise on the ills of environmental destruction; instead, this often-engaging documentary not only explores its subjects' experiences with the project, but it also delves into their personal lives, offering an intimate look at how one family and one marriage react to a drastic upheaval in their routines. No Impact Man might not do for trash what Super Size Me did for fast food, but it certainly makes its audience examine their own habits in the face of the radical experiment they've just witnessed.