REVIEW: Thriving with less by giving up more

By Sarah Albright

What started as a simple idea by living around people who struggled to have their basic needs met flamed into a documentary meant to challenge the makers of the film as well as the viewers. Together, six filmmakers collaborated on “Thrive With Less,” a school project at Michigan State University that challenged them to examine their own lives and ask serious questions about true happiness.

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The six students set up strict parameters around this challenge: They could only wear four shirts and one pair of pants for the month, they had to refrain from social media, they could not eat out, and they had to ride their bikes if the destination was within two miles from home.

The team went into the challenge with high hopes, but they quickly learned that these challenges were a lot more than they had bargained for. As a viewer, there were times, especially during the more vulnerable moments of “Thrive With Less,” where I squirmed in my seat thinking, “I’m glad this isn’t me.”

I especially resonated with one of the female directors, Mo Hnatiuk, as she struggled to clear out her closet. This is one situation many women fear — downsizing the closet.

Director Matt Radick was also challenged. He said the project was very draining at times because it forced him to be extremely vulnerable, confronting issues that he didn’t necessarily know were there. At the same time, this vulnerability was the focus of much criticism.

During the film, there were very personal moments where some of the directors were blogging about how challenging this project had actually been. It was in these moments that I thought this film was so poignantly put together.

“Thrive With Less” doesn’t leave anything out. I watched the highs and the lows, and it certainly was raw. One thing about this film, however, was that despite all of the challenges and hardships, these filmmakers were sincere, charming and endearing. I truly wanted to be friends with all of them and even rooted them on in their endeavors. This film had a way of inviting you into a world full of great people that you want to see succeed.

Throughout “Thrive With Less,” I watched the filmmakers’ walls get knocked down and built back up over and over again. The journey was hard to watch at times, but the film did a beautiful job of showing a community develop. It was even difficult to see the film come to an end. Scenes that developed this community, such as when the whole crew was eating a family style dinner together, made me long for such a strong community like theirs.

“Money is better spent on experiences rather than material gain,” Director Colin Marshall said.

Director Josh Michels seemed to echo this idea saying that community is very important, and in a world where we are surrounded by disconnect from things such as technology, this project broke down those walls within his own community. He even joked about how he longs to keep his “dumb phone” for as long as he can in a world full of “smart phones.”

Overall, “Thrive With Less” was incredible and liberating. If this film doesn’t make you thirst for a more fulfilling life then watch it again. It is incredibly moving, and in a dog-eat-dog world full of individualism and excess, it is a glimmer of hope for a world where you can truly learn to thrive with less.

5/5 stars

For anyone interested in viewing the film, there will be a showing March 1 at 9:30 p.m. in Longaker Recital Hall. Three of the directors, Josh Michels, Colin Marshall, and Matt Radick, will host a discussion after the film.

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