Like a lot of advocacy documentaries, Flow takes on an important issue in the broadest manner possible, making sweeping, scary statements about dangers facing the world while offering up few answers. Salina’s film about the commodification of water is summed up early on by one of her many talking-head experts/activists, who asserts that no one has any solution to the problem, but it doesn’t matter because we all have to keep drinking water anyway.
That problem is multifaceted, and Salina tries to take on everything from the tyranny of bottled water to the contamination of tap water to the exploitation of the underprivileged by multinational corporations to the environmental havoc wreaked by dams, at times contradicting herself as she does so. Many of the problems she points out are alarming, but the doomsday tone of the movie quickly becomes wearying, and after a certain point the information is simply repetitive, and thus loses much of its impact.
Toward the end, Salina does offer an uplifting montage of people all over the world marching for water rights, although it’s never quite clear what specific things they’re accomplishing. There’s a lot of value in the ideas presented here, and water quality and scarcity is certainly an underreported issue, but the point is made in a few minutes, and doesn’t really need a feature film to convey it. By the credits, Flow has become little more than an ad for people to sign up at the movie’s website; like a lot of advocacy docs, it ends up just preaching more activism to activists.