Ashgrove ★

It was inevitable that an event that had such a global impact as the COVID-19 pandemic would give rise to many films where a pandemic was at the centre of it. Ashgrove is the latest of these films, and though it may not focus on the said pandemic, it at least appears to be inspired by it.

MV5BNjRhOTM0N2MtNDMwMC00ZDNhLThmZDItMzM1MmFhOGRkNTgzXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTE5NTM5NTU5._V1_Jennifer (Amanda Brugel) is a scientist responsible for finding a solution to a virus that affects the world’s water supply. The opening sequence of Ashgrove displays the difficulty Jennifer has managing this responsibility, with the media often scrutinising her. When she has an epiphany for a solution to the problem, she has a blackout that makes her forget. The audience learns that these have been happening regularly due to the stressful nature of Jennifer’s job. Under medical advice, Jennifer and her husband, Jason (Jonas Chernick), go for a break at their countryside home. However, the holiday is not relaxing, and tensions arise when Jennifer suspects Jason is not entirely honest about taking the trip and their relationship.

I am sure most people have had enough of hearing about pandemics, but despite this, I did have an initial intrigue in Ashgrove‘s premise. However, this quickly dissipated as the plot is confusing from the outset. For most of the runtime, the two themes appear to have no relevance to each other and build towards a storyline that becomes more and more perplexing as the film progresses because the virus becomes arbitrary. The film diverges its focus away from the infected water supply to disordered, overdramatic and nonsensical action between the married couple, all for it to come together in a hurried and tangled fashion in the end, with the conclusion also leaving things unsolved.

Ashgrove is not a disappointment because of the cast’s performances or the design elements as some films are, though neither are exceptional, and some unfitting use of music does stand out for all the wrong reasons. I commend Brugel and Chernick for their effort to write something original while using a complex narrative. However, their attempt has resulted in a screenplay lacking refinement and, in turn, an uneven film.

Ian began working in film as one of the founding members of the Rochester Film Society, where he led the programming for films and curated screenings. Since moving into film criticism and writing for Cineccentric, he has provided coverage for various film festivals including London, Glasgow and the BFI Flare Film Festival. He is also the Communications Manager for the North East International Film Festival, where he helps acquire films. Ian particularly admires works from contemporary directors like Céline Sciamma, David Fincher, Steve McQueen and Nicolas Winding Refn.

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