To The End is only the beginning of an ambitious, hopeful journey

To The End (Roadside Attractions)

The new documentary from Rachel Lears follows four leaders as they build movements to change the narrative of climate change.

To The End opens with activist Varshini Prakash, leader of The Sunrise Movement, as she tours the destruction left in a wildfire’s wake. A bleak landscape meets her. There are houses burned and left in ruin. A car drives into the area, flames licking at the road as smoke covers the terrain. It’s a hell of a stirring beginning to Rachel Lears’ timely and extensive climate change documentary To The End.   

To The End follows four female leaders — Prakash, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, climate policy writer Rhiana Gunn-Wright, and political strategist Alexandra Rojas – over four years. The audience bears witness as the quartet work with politicians, media, and each other to fight climate change. 

Lears introduces each leader one by one in individual settings. First, the doc drops in on a Sunrise Movement meeting with Prakash. From there it builds to their eventual protest where Ocasio-Cortez drops by to lend her support. Soon their working alongside Gunn-Wright and Rojas to develop policies and shift political perceptions around climate change.  

To The End (Roadside Attractions)
Director Rachel Lears observes the push for climate change activism. (Roadside Attractions)

To The End feels like a companion to Lears’ 2019 Knock Down the Housewhich followed four women Congressional candidates. Lears even brings back one of the standouts from that film, Ocasio-Cortez, here. Whereas Knock Down the House followed the candidates separately, Lears weaves each storyline together here. She highlights how the four women work together towards a common goal. Lears’ strength is letting the drama unfold on camera, following the quartet around like a fly on a wall.  

It’s refreshing and bold to see these leaders in their element. The audience watches as the subjects deal with a seemingly insurmountable task of changing views on climate change. There’s a humorous moment with Ocasio-Cortez reveals her true feelings about witnesses called by her Republican colleagues during a virtual committee meeting. Prakash brings a jolt of energy with every speech and appearance, even when the movement feels so far from their goals. Gunn-Wright is a blunt policy writer, refusing to sacrifice her identity while she leads her charge, lacing her presentations with profanity. Rojas has a great scene where repeats her talking points for her first CNN experience into a mirror to get them down. 

[Director Rachel] Lears’ strength is letting the drama unfold on camera, following the quartet around like a fly on a wall.  

It’s an impressive task to craft a documentary that connects multiple activists and events over the course of four years under 93 minutes. Perhaps then it’s no surprise To The End feels a bit too overloaded with information at times. It’s densely packed with insider moments that connect and inform shifting narratives on climate change. Additionally, the doc incorporates references to other significant events including Covid 19, the 2020 election, and protests surrounding George Floyd’s murder, exploring how they coincide with climate change goals.  

Then again, climate change advocacy movement connects with many other activitist concerns like systemic racism and infrastructure, just to name a few. To The End might feel overburdened because the climate change movement itself holds the weight of many causes on its shoulders.  

That being said, it’s not all doom and gloom. Lears does end the documentary on a positive note. It’s final note is the passing of the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, which features historic investments in climate change. Lears even gives us one last peak into the four women. She lets them all have a moment to process how far they’ve come, and what they hope to accomplish in the future. To The End is an admirable battle cry of a film. It’s a documentaty that will surely rally more the cause, if not solidify those who already stand united.

To The End takes activism to theatres on December 9.

To The End Trailer:

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Ashley Lara

Ashley is a writer, producer, and avid karaoke fan living in New York City. She co-produces/co-hosts She Makes Me Laugh, a monthly female and non-binary comedy show. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram at @smashley_lara.

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