‘You need to drink two litres of water per day’, ‘water is great for your health’, ‘water helps you losing weight, etc., we’ve heard it all. Probably too many times. While we try to reach that water level, it’s easier said than done. But what if water becomes the only limited source that keeps you alive? Then you’re probably part of the dystopian world of director Jeremy LaLonde (“James vs. His Future Self”, “The Go-Getters”).
With the help of co-writers Amanda Brugel (The Handmaid’s Tale”, “Becky”) and Jonas Chernick (“James vs. His Future Self”, “A Swingers Weekend”), he created “Ashgrove”, a head-scratching movie that’s filled with unexpected twist and turns, powerful cinematography and strong performances.
In “Ashgrove”, you’ve been taken to an unknown world that’s in the middle of a pandemic. Yeah, we know that that might not be the story you want to see these days, but hear us out. To avoid the toxic water causing the pandemic, the inhabitants have to limit their water intake.
As if trying to survive a pandemic isn’t tricky enough, top scientist Jennifer Ashgrove (Brugel) takes on the assignment to find a cure. This heavy burden results in psychological and mental problems. She experiences more and more blackouts, up to the point that her boss asks her to take time off.
Jennifer is not happy with it at first, as she’s on the verge of a scientific breakthrough, but she goes along. Together with her husband Jason (Chernick), she retreats to the countryside. However, what is supposed to be a relaxing weekend, becomes one full of tensions, secrets and a relationship that’s on the verge of collapsing.
The longer the weekend goes on, the darker the secrets become, and when their two best friends arrive at the house, things take turns for the worst.
This tense movie recently got its world premiere during the Glasgow Film Festival. While there are no other film festival dates announced yet, Chernick mentioned during our interview (below) that “Ashgrove” would head to different festivals soon. So if the film is screened near you, we suggest that you go and check it out because this drama-thriller has a lot to offer.
What makes this movie so thrilling and captivating is, without a doubt, the tense atmosphere that’s being created magnificently, mainly because this movie was shot in only ten days. “Ashgrove” both feels sinister and secret but at the same time also incredibly natural and human.
This is because director LaLonde and cinematographer Robert Scarborough (“Dark Web”, “Room for Rent”) certainly know how to bring that aspect perfectly to life. The open, airy, and bright locations and shots create a welcoming and relaxed vibe but also add an apocalyptic and sinister atmosphere.
When watching “Ashgrove”, it becomes clear that the pandemic and Jennifer’s work has an undeniable impact on the relationship between Jennifer and Jason. The couple are struggling to get back together. Jennifer is getting frustrated with Jason’s work while Jason feels isolated because of his wife’s job.
Thanks to the spectacular performances, all those feelings are brought to the screen stunningly. Brugel puts on an excellent performance of the workaholic woman who’s determined and headstrong but who’s also losing herself in her work and relationship. Her beautiful portrayal and the clever use of mirrors make sure that you feel the disorientating, stressful and frustrating time Jennifer is going through.
Chernick delivers an intense and balanced performance as the husband, who at first sight really loves his wife but who, if you take a closer look, is not exactly who he seems he is. Chernick makes sure that every loving but also the secretive aspect of his character shines through beautifully. These performances certainly heighten the sinister and human feeling of the movie in a significant way.
While the cinematography and performances are top-notch, the pace of the story could have been done with a bit more care and consideration. The first part of “Ashgrove” feels incredibly dragged out. The confusing feelings are present but sadly, not in a good way at first.
However, you already get some clues about where this movie is heading. Once the secrets unfold, the pace picks up exceptionally well, and the film doesn’t let you go anymore. From then on, anything you see on the screen makes you think and re-think everything you already saw in “Ashgrove”.
While this movie certainly has pace problems during the first part, “Ashgrove” is undoubtedly a film you have to give a shot, mainly because it’s not another ‘pandemic movie’. Thanks to the magnificent cinematography, detailed performances, unsettling, shocking twists, and obscure and sinister vibe, the movie will absolutely keep you on your toes.
3rd March 2022
THE QUICK SELL
Set in the not-so-distant future, Dr. Jennifer Ashgrove - one of the world's top scientists - is battling to find a cure to a crisis that affects the world's water supply.