Review: The Hottest August

Year: 2019
Runtime: 94 minutes
Director: Brett Story

By Daniel Richeson

“The Hottest August” is a complicated and insightful examination of a few communities in New York City. While it doesn’t follow the temperament of “Humans of New York”, it still asks its subjects about things like climate change and race inequality. The film gives off an impending feeling of hopelessness or dread when it comes to the future. There are people who are gravely mistaken by what is happening with our world’s climate and also some Americans that aren’t in the know when it comes to privilege and how they benefit from it. These answers make the viewer uncomfortable and possibly even guilty based on their alignments. 

A hundred-year storm plastered New York and residents of the affected areas seem relatively unphased or even hardened. An extended moment in the film hears one resident, in particular, misunderstand the meaning behind the term and thinks that it’ll be the last storm for another hundred years. Furthering the idea that the “common” person living in any part of the United States seems misinformed about the topics of the world. Climate change being chief among them.

The Hottest August
#2 – A scene from Brett Story’s “The Hottest August.” Courtesy of Grasshopper Film.

Several interactions with ranges of people fill the runtime with answers to current events. From previously mentioned climate change to the Black Lives Matter movement, segments reflect the turmoil faced by minorities in America. In a bar, two older white men talk about welfare and the misconception that the “hard-working Americans” pay for the people on welfare. Hot button words like lazy and unemployed are tossed around with no regard as they sit confidently understanding that they are being taken advantage of. While scenes from Charlottesville, Virginia play on various televisions throughout the doc reflect the heinous actions of white nationalists and the murder of Heather Heyer. 

“The Hottest August” is a complicated and insightful examination of a few communities in New York City. While it doesn’t follow the temperament of “Humans of New York”, it still asks its subjects about things like climate change and race inequality.

As for a central thought or plot in this documentary, there truly isn’t an obvious choice. It’s more a sum of its part leading us to think about our future as a country and even as a society as a whole. Where do the actions of our time lead us? A Presidential election is in the near future and has vast potential to be another powder keg of emotions and change that may further damage America or course correct it. 

The Hottest August
#3 – A scene from Brett Story’s “The Hottest August.” Courtesy of Grasshopper Film.

The adventure lies in the reflections of the viewer. Opinions and facts are misrepresented in our lives now. The arrival of clickbait and fake news has forever altered how we perceive the world. Now we need to ask who benefits from us seeing the angle. Every debate has two sides working against each other to persuade an audience, but when either side begins not arguing in good faith, then the facts fall to a secondary level of importance. Brett Story tries to encapsulate this with the subjects by showing their clips where they use these answers that they likely heard from a news source as their own opinion. The somewhat ridiculous statements are typical caveats where arguing is not even necessary anymore. The most blatant is a couple in front of their garage and a woman does the “I’m not a racist…” spiel. Please.

Director Brett Story shows the audience just how much the landscape has changed and how those older notions have been disproven. Now we question everyone we know.

A perception in the last four years in American history may proclaim that the support for the President comes from the midwest or southern folk deep in the holler without any clue of how the world operates outside of their 5,000 person town. That’s a comforting thought, to think that at least those supporters aren’t people in big cities or in areas that have access to better information. It’s just not true, by a large sum. This film proves that those supporters exist even in our most populous cities and they live similar lives to our own.

Director Brett Story shows the audience just how much the landscape has changed and how those older notions have been disproven. Now we question everyone we know. We manoeuvre conversations as to not bring up the topic around family in a feeble attempt to act as a peacekeeper. The transitions in the film take the viewer through a thought process. All of these vastly complicated topics are interconnected by our political leanings. Equality and climate change are very different but are viewed as liberal issues where their dismissal is seen as a right-wing proclamation. Story takes us through these conflicts and allows us to hear opinions and generate our own take.

There’s not a large amount of time given to any specific thought and that ultimately leads the viewer to feel as if they’re scrolling social media. “The Hottest August” is a thoughtful and provoking piece that hopefully lands in the limelight where more people can see it.

3.5 stars

“The Hottest August” Official Website

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