The Movie Waffler Glasgow Film Festival 2022 Review - ASHGROVE | The Movie Waffler

Glasgow Film Festival 2022 Review - ASHGROVE

ashgrove review
A scientist discovers the cure for a global pandemic, only to then lose her memory.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Jeremy LaLonde

Starring: Amanda Brugel, Jonas Chernick, Natalie Brown

ashgrove poster

When the COVID pandemic hit it didn't take long for exploitative filmmakers to seize an opportunity to cash in on our global misfortune. An array of cheap horror movies were rushed out, most of which had barebones plots quickly cobbled together in an attempt to seize upon a moment (had they known how long the pandemic would actually last they might have taken more time to develop their ideas). Ashgrove is the first piece of "pandemic cinema" that feels like it wasn't conceived as a cynical cash-in. Rather it feels like its creators had an idea rattling around their heads and finally found the opportunity to bring it to fruition amid our current crisis.

ashgrove review

Directed by Jeremy LaLonde, Ashgrove is set amid a different kind of pandemic, one with much scarier implications than COVID. The world's water supply has become toxic, meaning only a certain amount of water can be consumed on a daily basis. At the point the movie begins, 60 million are dead globally, with another 100,000 dying every day. The human race is expected to be extinct in five years. All hope seems lost.

That is until Jennifer (Amanda Brugel), one of the scientists tasked with finding a cure, has an epiphany one morning and believes she's cracked it. Rushing into her car, she excitedly calls her office to let them know she's figured out how to save the planet. But then she wakes up in bed. Turns out she was found on the side of the road, having suffered one of several blackouts she has been experiencing since having a miscarriage the previous year. Jennifer is suffering from a mild amnesia, meaning she has no recollection of having come up with a cure for the global crisis.

ashgrove review

Despite Amanda's protestations, her superiors force her to take the weekend off and relax in the farmhouse her husband Jason (Jonas Chernick) has spent the past year restoring (as with COVID, this pandemic has left many of those not working on the frontline with a lot of time on their hands). There's clearly some friction between Jennifer and Jason however, but they agree not to argue over the weekend, as clearly there are bigger things at stake than their relationship. Jennifer finds herself prodded by Jason however, who is oddly insistent that she eat certain types of foods and join him in specific activities. When she overhears him quietly talking to someone on his phone, she becomes paranoid that he's conspiring against her in some way.

It's difficult to discuss much of what makes Ashgrove work as everything falls into place when a certain twist is deployed. As the film had yet to receive its world premiere, practically no details of its plot were available to me on the internet, so for this writer it was a very rare case of sitting down to watch a movie in complete ignorance of where its narrative might take me. I'd suggest watching Ashgrove with a similar lack of information, as this will help put you in the same headspace as its protagonist Jennifer, and you'll be trying to figure out just what Jason is up to along with her.

ashgrove review

Ashgrove paradoxically feels improvised but also very thought out. I won’t get into spoilers, but this actually plays into the narrative that's being spun behind the scenes here. Ashgrove is a film about replicating the past, of being forced to repeat mistakes when it seemed you had a chance to move past them. It's about the necessity of confrontation, of how we can't just brush our problems under the carpet, which Jennifer and Jason have clearly been doing for some time at the point we meet them. Jason appears to be purposely attempting to engage in confrontation with Jennifer, who insists she wants to avoid any such arguments. Is Jason a hero or antagonist for behaving in such a way? Sometimes when we bury our head in the sand, those who try to pull us up for air can seem like our enemy when they're simply looking out for us. Ashgrove makes the very mature suggestion that being a good partner in a relationship sometimes requires you to play the role of your other half's antagonist.

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