Before The Flood: Review
By: Manola Secaira
It’s easy to seem a little skeptical when it comes to the premise of Leonardo DiCaprio’s project with National Geographic, Before the Flood. After all, DiCaprio is an actor without any scientific background. However, the documentary challenges its viewers to look beyond that and send out one simple message: issues of climate change aren’t just something for scientists to worry about. It affects everybody and change needs to start with the individual.
However, Before the Flood doesn’t coddle its audience with “we can do it” attitude. The host of the documentary, Leonardo DiCaprio, states his pessimism early on the film in regards to combating climate change. The truth , presented starkly in the film, is that the damage that humanity’s usage of fossil fuels, carbon emissions, consumption and creation of beef, and other human forms of environmental destruction are already having an effect. However, the alarmist tones of the documentary have a purpose. Narrating the documentary, DiCaprio encourages viewers to take immediate action rather than recoil.
The documentary follows Leo’s travels across the globe in the past couple years as he witnesses the effects of climate change and talks to scientists about what can possibly be done. While the documentary starts out with a sort of American-centric perspective of climate change at the beginning, it quickly becomes relatable to a broader audience by addressing how one country’s actions can affect the world.
Personally, my biggest concern coming into the documentary was that it was going to sound a little fake. Leonardo DiCaprio, after all, is an actor. But Before the Flood is hyper aware of this fact, even pointing it out in the beginning, and utilizes this fact to its own advantage. In a way, DiCaprio personifies the viewer throughout the documentary. Often times, he’s surprised but what he finds out. He doesn’t know all the facts. He asks lots of questions.
In this way, Before the Flood conveys perhaps one of the most important messages of all: combatting climate change isn’t something reserved to the work of scientists. It’s something that anyone can understand, if they take the time to do so. While the documentary is still full of straight facts to support its claims of the harms that come from climate change, DiCaprio allows the viewer to feel grounded and makes climate change an accessible topic. He’s just as terrified as the viewer, but also like the viewer, he’s trying to find a personal way to help.
The film ends with an all caps, bolded message: IT’S UP TO ALL OF US. That is the message of Before the Flood, in the simplest of terms. Through its relatability and stance based in facts, the documentary urges viewers to action.