The can-do optimism of Tomorrow (Demain) sets it apart from other documentaries about the environmental crisis. Prompted by a 2012 report in Nature, which predicted that the catastrophic effects of climate change will hit sooner than previously calculated, co-directors Mélanie Laurent (Breathe) and Cyril Dion sought out creative problem-solving around the world and in their native France, where their film won a César Award. Laurent and Dion don’t resort to eco-shaming anyone, but an unspoken plea underscores their utopian survey: Why can’t we all live like this?
Written by Dion, Tomorrow is constructed as a conversation between curious amateurs who prompt each other to further investigation. In four sections (agriculture, economy, education, democracy), the co-directors explore systems that impact our environment, and find local solutions to global problems. Some stories are familiar, like the French paper-mill owner who’s made every aspect of his business part of a recycling loop. Other segments reflect shifting attitudes, such as the one about the Finnish school whose principal uses every possible resource to help students develop into capable independent thinkers.
Completed in 2015, Tomorrow misses major recent events including Brexit, which could impact several of the English cities profiled, whose governments have issued alternate currency to stimulate regional investment. There’s also oversimplification: When discussing urban farming in abandoned areas of Detroit, the filmmakers cite the auto industry’s contraction, but ignore white flight to the suburbs. What Laurent and Dion do best is present pockets of progressive change as blueprints for idealism in action.
Review by Serena Donadoni
Released on April 21, 2017 by Under the Milky Way
First published in The Village Voice, 2017.