Directed by #MattDAvella
Joshua and Ryan, dubbed 'The Minimalists,' have built a way of life from the minimalism movement. Now, they feature in a Netflix mini-doc to share their personal stories on discovering how to downsize to happiness.
With ‘new year new me’ vibes, this new documentary shows a unique and alternative way to start 2021. In a rapid consumer age, the films hard-hitting imagery, combined with personal narratives of materiality and money, creates a minimalist reality that becomes all the more appealing to its viewers.
The film is contextualised with the certain knowledge that Americans love stuff. Some featured in the piece go so far as to admit that they are addicted to stuff and it is this addiction that both Joshua and Ryan aim to address in this fifty-minute piece. Interspersed with business professionals who share an insight into American consumer culture in the midst of a rapidly changing Capitalist society, we also see every day people on camera who tell us about their personal hoarding experiences and how they have found value in minimalism. It feels genuine and the audience gets a sense of the freedom that can be found in removing unnecessary material items from the home.
Testimony from childhood best friends Joshua and Ryan provides an insight into where their minimalism all began. From growing up poor, to becoming financially successful men, their realisation that the so-called ‘American Dream’ that they had achieved actually became more like an American nightmare. The equation of money with happiness, thus leading to a lack of personal fulfilment, really strikes a chord whilst watching. These personal stories of despair and loss are what makes this documentary great.
A little repetitive in parts, much of the online response to this has been that this documentary is simply a re-telling of previous works that Joshua and Ryan have done. But this in no way takes away from the message of the film, as both wish to stress that owning ‘stuff’ does not add value to your life.
The piece itself is shot well and has many graphics that blend well with the beautifully decorated, minimalist scenes. Through this, The Minimalists drills home the impact of digital advertising and the personal inadequacy that results from this was an unexpected anti-Capitalist framework that was unexpected and indeed, refreshing.
There is definitely the feel of Marie Kondo here (remember when Tidying Up with Marie Kondo was the hugest thing to happen to Netflix?), as The Minimalists share the importance of personal value to the items that we keep. ‘Does this spark joy?’ becomes more like ‘what is truly important?’ and ‘Is this something that I want to define my life? Do I really want to keep this?” It breaks from the socially accepted twenty-first-century norm of buying things because we believe that they will make us happy and it allows us all to truly question what we own.
Ultimately, the message is that less really is more. Focusing on a few core sentimental items and getting rid of the rest is the key to success. The Minimalists seek to question and challenge the contemporary viewer: can we really get rid of at least one item every day? Their 'Less is More' challenge encourages us to donate, sell or recycle items that we no longer use - a great and environmentally-friendly task for those that have stuff to spare.
This documentary is a fresh perspective on the Capitalist world as we know it and is well worth a watch for those wishing to expand upon their horizons.
Watch the trailer here: