By: Nick Askam
Minimalism follows two different stories. One is about consumerism overtaking our lives. Two, that the two guys who made the film are promoting their book and are on tour. The two stories constantly battle it out in a seemingly endless war to prove who’s right the most. Except the two don’t fight at all – they don’t seem to even know what the other side is fighting for. They’re just doing their thing. This is honestly the biggest reason why this film doesn’t work.
I wish that this film was broken into two documentaries instead of one because the messages don’t have as much overlap as I think the creators thought there would be. What ends up happening is that the consumerism idea seems more like a conspiracy theory because not enough loose ends are tied up, and the book tour feels like one long advertisement. These two ideas don’t work together. They fight constantly for screen time, and when the documentary isn’t that long, to begin with, it makes them both feel like half-baked ideas.
I’m a firm believer in minimalism. I think that we do have too much excess and we need to stop buying things. I felt that before the documentary started, and to me it fell short because those were the only messages that I got from the entire thing. Throw stuff away and stop buying stuff. But then they present so much added unnecessary information that I felt like their encompassing message was lost.
As far as documentaries go, I felt like this one doesn’t find its voice until about the halfway point when the book tour part really starts kicking off. But then immediately following this, it goes back to the consumer culture debate and loses all of its momentum. It’s a shame because it was starting to get good for one side, but this two-headed monster approach fails to hit the mark. It makes the film feel pretentious and lacking substance. There were some interesting ideas that were started, but they came to a screeching halt the second the other part needed some airtime.
I would have much preferred only the two guys on their book tour because it more closely followed the minimalist attitude. I would’ve liked to see how minimalism affected them on tour besides them just not packing very many clothes. Like how did they choose where to go for hotels or which transport to use? I think these are very interesting topics that were simply glazed over in the interest of time. That was mightily disappointing for someone who wants to learn more about the lifestyle.
Overall, I feel like this documentary needs serious mending. There are serious pacing problems that make this thing feel like it lasts forever. I don’t think the blending of educational and entertaining worked at all in this film. In my opinion, it needs to be broken up into two different parts because I liked the book guys and really didn’t care at all about the shopping part. I felt like the messages might be the same on the surface, but when one of the guys on the book tour says “you can keep your collection of books”, then it takes away from the consumerism part. It felt too much like a ploy to push their book selling agenda. I think that line discredits a lot of what is said from the consumer culture side, which is sad. I do want to read the book now, though. So, I guess that 1-hour commercial worked on at least one person. Even if it’s me.