Set during a pandemic in which the world’s water supply has become toxic, Ashgrove – the latest feature from filmmaking duo Jeremy LaLonde and Jonas Chernick – sees The Handmaid’s Tale’s Amanda Brugel star as a top scientist who’s on the verge of a major breakthrough that could save humanity. However, a blackout caused by crippling stress forces her to take a weekend retreat to her picturesque farmhouse with her husband (Jonas Chernick). Their relaxing break gradually simmers into something more mysterious when she suspects her husband is keeping secrets from her.
It’s hard to see Ashgrove as anything other than an allegory for relationships during lockdown. The trip is initially characterised by jovial canoe paddles and lazy afternoons reading in a hammock. An uplifting soundtrack of indie vocals and acoustic guitars invites audiences to relax and enjoy the sunshine with the couple too; it’s all very serene and pleasant, though the occasional passive aggressive remark indicates there are signs of tensio. Brugel and Chernick play their parts wonderfully. While Chernick is excellent as the awkward husband, it’s Brugel who shines here: she has the most to work with and makes the most of what she’s given. With all the stress her character is under, she’s essentially a time bomb ready to explode, and when she does, Brugel erupts into raw passion.
Initially, the pandemic setting resides in the background after it gets the plot underway. However, it does work itself back into the script in an interesting, albeit underdeveloped way in the third act, where a curveball throws events into a different perspective, recontextualising everything viewers have just seen. Though it presents audiences with an interesting idea, there isn’t enough time spent with this new direction for the filmmakers to develop it or connect it better to what came before.
Ashgrove is ultimately a study of a couple under pressure. While the actors do a highly commendable job in bringing their troubled relationship to the screen, their story is overcomplicated by an ambitious script that puts too much emphasis on its twist.
Ashgrove does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Glasgow Film Festival 2022 coverage here.
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Watch the trailer for Ashgrove here: