Review: Chloe & Theo

Written and directed by Ezna Sands, a homeless girl and an Inuit man, Chloe and Theo, warn people in New York City of the effect of global warming. Starring: Theo Ikummaq, Dakota Johnson, Mira Sorvino, André de Shields and Ashley Springer.

This film primarily attempts to explore how climate change is being seen most keenly by remote communities, changing their way of life and threatening their livelihoods. It poses an interesting question of approaching it from the perspective of regular citizens, rather than scientists, and whether that would change how much people will listen. However, it feels as though the film doesn’t spend enough time on climate change and environmentalism, it falls more to personal drama. That’s not to say those things don’t intersect, qualities of generosity, compassion and dedication certainly apply to making an impact on climate change but they’re not entirely used in that way here. The tone comes across more with a naïve optimism which is then hit with a stroke of harsh reality but it never takes the sheen off that naivety.

It’s the key issue holding back this film from achieving something more significant, it’s simply too sentimental and sweet. The result is that it creates a saccharine and insincere atmosphere, which makes it difficult to take the story seriously. There’s a certain hallmark quality to it, especially when it’s exploring a story of homelessness, injustice and discrimination, which should hold a decent level of grit or weight, but sadly doesn’t. The visual has a similar quality, the cinematography misses out on an everyday aesthetic, instead feeling artificial and too tidy for the story its telling.

Having Theo Ikummaq and Dakota Johnson leading the charge as the titular Chloe and Theo is a strong pairing, both providing utterly different performances. While Ikummaq brings a quiet grace and serene presence, Johnson brings a chaotic, frantic but kind quality, a character who’s typically all in on everything she does. It’s a classic duo of opposites bringing out the best in one another, finding common ground and coming together for a bigger cause. It does unfortunately feed into the over-sentimental tone of the film despite them both giving solid performances. Their quality is undermined by Chloe & Theo’s technical choices, the framing, the editing, the colour and pacing of the story; they’re not allowing a strength or real emotion to come through.

Chloe & Theo has a great concept to explore climate change through the perspective of someone from a remote community, who’s witnessing its impact first hand. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite grasp the weight or sincerity of the topic, instead becoming sentimental and falling into typical superficial patterns of drama. It has the thematic elements but they’re so hidden and used in misguided ways, as well as topped with lacking direction, cinematography and music, that they can’t be handled in any way that would do them justice. Despite the fact that the film is led by two strong actors in Theo Ikummaq and Dakota Johnson, it can’t gain any traction.

Verdict: ✯✯✯ | 6/10

Re-released in celebration of Earth Day 2022

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