Love Thy Nature

**

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Love Thy Nature
"Mixes solid, well established material with poorly substantiated ideas and a tendency to whimsy."

No matter the diversity of positions that exist on environmental issues, few people would deny that chronic stress is a serious problem in the modern world. Is it, in part, because we've moved too far away from the lifestyles we evolved to fit? That's the contention of this crowdfunded documentary, which uses rapid fire nature photography to convince us that we need more happiness and beauty in our lives - something few would disagree with. In a style that's becoming typical of indie science documentaries, it mixes solid, well established material with poorly substantiated ideas and a tendency to whimsy, but at least it's pretty.

Liam Neeson is the (white. male, middle class) everyman narrator, echoing the work of Olaf Stapledon as he recounts his journey from tree-dwelling primate to hunter gatherer, tribesman and, eventually, office worker. The first half of the film is well paced (Sylvie Rokab's frantic editing aside) and supplied with a fair amount of expert opinion to flesh out this journey and explain its relevance. It addresses issues like the importance of exercise and the demonstrable psychological benefits of being outside. Some of this is a little underplayed - it's explained, for instance, that working in an office with no natural light is bad for you, but the established facts about this are far scarier than it suggests - but it's a competent introduction to the subject.

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In the second half, unfortunately, this solid approach gives way to pseudoscience and talk about the needs of the soul. Dubious nutritional advice falls down further by failing to note that many of our ancestors would have eaten whatever they could get and merely dreamed of the variety available to the modern health-conscious shopper - what may very well be good for us isn't necessarily what we evolved in harmony with. There's also a lot of talk about the perfect balance of Earth's ecosystem which verges on notions of intelligent design, missing the fact that the said ecosystem has survived several mass extinction events. The sensible aspects of Gaia theory are confounded by a mysticism which hints at other, perhaps less commendable ancestral traits.

By the time we move onto naturopathy, nothing is really surprising anymore. The film steers clear of demonising modern medicine but takes the notion that what's found in the wild is good as an article of faith. What's unclear is who all this is aimed at. If people are already firm in their belief in such ideas, there won't be much that is new to them. If not, they're unlikely to take these latter ideas very seriously, in part because their presentation contrasts so starkly with the greater rigour of the first half. The rather overdone images of happy children and smiling parents adds to the sense that it's lapsing into propaganda when the team behind it is capable of better. this may simply be an artefact of a low budget and rushed production process but it's still disappointing.

Over the course of its running time, Love Thy Nature makes a lot of good points, and its central one - that being close to nature is pleasurable - seems unlikely to be disputed by many. It's unfortunate that much of this is subsumed by the clumsy handling of other material and by a general fear of the new which discounts the possibility that there might be new ways to resolve old needs. Ultimately, this is a film that needs some heavy pruning if it's really going to bloom.

Reviewed on: 20 Apr 2016
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A documentary about the importance of getting back to nature.

Director: Sylvie Rokab

Writer: Sylvie Rokab, Sylvie Rokab, Fernanda Rossi, Elaine Souda

Starring: Liam Neeson, Elijah Ahmadi, Zach Allen, Eriberto Almeida Jr, Angelina M Alvarez, Dani Amorim, Cassidy Arabe, Patricia Revata Azeredo, Philip Barr, Dayna Baumeister, Bo Bentele, Jean Shinoda Bolen, Olga Bolotina, Ellia Boostani, India Boostani

Year: 2014

Runtime: 76 minutes

Country: US

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