Sunday, 5 September 2021

Movie review: The Minimalists: Less is Now, dir Matt D’Avella (2021)

Last month I watched this documentary’s companion piece, from the same director but coming out six years earlier. Both are good, and I don’t have a preference either way but the two movies are different though the message is the same. The earlier movie is more of a coming-of-age story, charting the emergence of the two men who are the subjects of the pieces.

‘Less is Now’ tells the same story but with more detail. Here you learn more about the childhoods of Ryan Nicodemus and Joshua Fields Millburn, who are the Minimalists (they have a website you can visit for more information about their project). Millburn seems to have purchased a new Toyota to replace his old Toyota, which tells me that his idea has borne fruit in a material sense – though you don’t now get to see the outside of the car, the interior finishes are too new to go with the bodywork that was evident in the 2015 movie.

I watched the movie with friends, and the experience sparked controversy. This is a debate that we all must have even though, for many, the message of Nicodemus and Fields will be unnecessary. A point one of the interview subjects raised is that minimalism is really a first-world luxury. For recent migrants, the idea that you’d need to reduce the amount of belongings you own must seem like something strange, especially considering the fact that you might not have everything that you need to live life well. A spoiled society would find comfort from reducing the number of items owned and a struggling man might still need to buy his own vacuum cleaner or rice cooker.

The fact remains that we’re overtaxing the planet, the problem being that there’s no such thing as world government, so getting action on an issue as comprehensive as climate change is always going to cause us problems. Let the message of the Minimalists become more widespread and we might all have a common referent. I wonder how intrusive they really are, however. It seems to me that we’re more focused on the latest Netflix drama, the more recent Abba album, the latest Hollywood blockbuster.

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