A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Minimalists: Less is Now is a documentary about living as a "minimalist," the perils of consumerism, and how stuff won't make people happy. One half of this docu is conventionally presented with authorities and talking heads, charts, diagrams, and graphics, and plenty of montages. The other half is presented as biographies of the two self proclaimed "Minimalists," Joshua Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, recounting their personal childhoods, career successes, and life journeys that led them to decide to live simply, frugally, and without too many things. The movie greatly encourages reducing the number of things you own, have held onto, and purchase in the future. Many shots of consumer goods and products. Lots of shots of Amazon ads and products like Amazon's Echo Dot and Apple products like iPads and iPhones. Some brief discussion of physical abuse and trauma experienced as a child. Language includes a couple mentions of "s--t."
What's the story?
In THE MINIMALISTS: LESS IS NOW, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus recount their personal journeys to becoming "minimalists." On stage, in cars, and through voiceovers, they present their stories of poverty, success, and disillusionment so that others might learn what they have. Interspersed throughout are more conventional documentary techniques, like interviews, graphics, and montages that accompany fact and data driven information. The film concludes with a few challenges that encourage people to get rid of their stuff.
Is it any good?
Unfortunately, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus present themselves here as gurus, which includes cringe-inducing monologue sets filmed on actual stages. Meanwhile, the conventional documentary style through half of The Minimalists: Less is Now is quite good, informative, and helpful. But the personal side of the film lacks a certain empathy and often comes across as pretentious, self agrandizing, and self promoting. They certainly want to talk about minimalism as much as live it. Thus, half of this documentary is great, but the other half is completely unnecessary. If the film completely cut the personal biographies, life stories of career success and unhappiness, and live performances, leaving a 25-minute documentary, it'd be 4 out of 5 stars.
The central messages are helpful, and many people would benefit from them, but living as a minimalist is certainly presented as a "cure all" to all of life's modern problems. But some experts argue that the minimalist lifestyle movement merely opens up and enables new forms and modes of consumption. Lifestyle minimalists argue that we shouldn't quest for more and more things, and they're right. But they accidentally have replaced that desire with a new one: now we just need to consume, buy, and hold onto the right things and only the right things. Further, the film doesn't provide an objective history of where "minimalism" comes from, from its roots in art criticism (originally used as an insult) to a modern lifestyle, nor does it discuss how the latter has primarily been a recent fad popularized and promoted by the technologically elite and wealthy. There are also historical and cultural factors to consider when arguing that "memories don't reside in things, but people."
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how consumerism affects their lives. After watching The Minimalists: Less is Now, will you try to want fewer things? What kind of changes will you make in your life?
How many advertisements for things do you think you see on average every week? If you didn't see so many ads for things all the time, would you want fewer things? Why or why not?
Why do you think the documentary spent so much time on the personal lives of the film's creators? Do you think this helps or hurts the message the filmmakers are trying to get across?
Our editors recommend
For kids who love documentaries
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
Streaming options powered by JustWatch