‘Tomorrow’ presents environmental solutions – along with a bit of preaching

Washington Post
Friday, June 02, 2017

Environmental documentaries typically include dire predictions about the future of the planet. The well-meaning Tomorrow takes a more hopeful approach: In addition to providing frightening statistics, French activist Cyril Dion and his co-director, actress Mélanie Laurent, propose solutions, introducing us to individuals around the world who are trying to make it a better place. Much like the planet that the film describes, however, Tomorrow is itself inefficient and overpopulated.

In an effort to show us people who have make lemonade out of environmental lemons, the film takes us to such cities as Detroit, where a mass exodus has left a once-industrial city in ruins. Those who stayed behind found it nearly impossible to find fresh produce, so a group of them decided to grow their own, on vacant land.

Such urban farming is one of the film’s many success stories. The English town of Todmorden is the site of a similar project, whose organizers suggest that the key to a better tomorrow is right in front of us: one another. “That’s all the future needs,” one interview subject says, “more people connecting with each other.”

Tomorrow is best when it finds vivid characters working at the front lines of environmental defense - people like the San Francisco waste management specialist who explains, pointing to his own eyes, “You have to see garbage with garbageman eyes.” Unfortunately, the film too often scatters its resources, moving on from such figures to pursue less compelling ones, who end up dryly preaching to the choir.

Worse, the movie is padded with montages that serve little purpose. One extended sequence – set to Rufus Wainwright’s version of the Leonard Cohen song, “Everybody Knows” – features crowd shots as the filmmakers wander through Oakland.

There are some inspiring people in the film, and one wishes it had been edited to focus more on their stories. In the end, Tomorrow is less a movie than a long public service announcement.