Amanda Brugel, Jonas Chernick, Natalie Brown, Christine Horne, Sugith Varughese and Shawn Doyle
Set during a pandemic that affects the world’s water supply, one of the world’s top scientists is battling to find a cure.
Ashgrove is a drama written by Amanda Brugel, Jonas Chernick and Jeremy LaLonde, with LaLonde also helming the film. Set in the not-too-distant future, we follow Dr. Jennifer Ashgrove, a Professor of Water Chemistry and one of the world’s top scientists that is assigned to find a cure for the current water pandemic, as the world’s water supply is tainted with a toxic virus. As the weight of the world takes its toll on her, she retreats to the countryside with her husband Jason to help clear her mind. But their relationship is strained, and they soon realise that their ability to save their marriage will literally determine the fate of humankind itself.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic a few years, there have been instances in which creatives in the film industry have tried to manage a storyline around it, for example Songbird. Then there have been creatives that have tried to use the restrictions to their advantage, for example Host. With Ashgrove, it definitely feels like it’s captured the balance between the two, as while not being about COVID, it instead refers to another pandemic that taints the worlds water supply, and while it refers to it, the majority of the film is focused on the relationship between Jennifer and Jason. What feels for us, the viewer, is that we’ve walked in on the aftermath of a heated argument between the couple, Jennifer has an epiphany in relation to the cure to the world crisis, but unfortunately the next scene we see her waking up in bed, with Jason and a doctor by her bedside. We learn that she has short-term amnesia not only due to the stress of the workload, but also of a trauma she suffered in the past, leading to her being forced by her boss at work to take a vacation and rest for a few days, leading to her and Jason going to their retreat in the countryside.
What follows then becomes a guessing game for the viewer and it really is an interesting drama written by its co-leads an director, making you care for the unbelievable stress that Jennifer is going through, and becoming suspicious of her husband’s behaviour as the film progresses. To be clear, I believe like the screening of the film beforehand, it’s best to go in blind with this film as I was pleasantly surprised by some of the creative decisions that were made with the film. LaLonde and allows particular scenes to breathe, one in particular in which Jennifer walks into the living room to find Jason playing the ukulele, as well as another one during the final act which I won’t mention as it will spoil the film. Amanda Brugel gives a really good performance as Jennifer, we can feel the stress and frustration she’s feeling with the weight of the world being on her shoulders, and how she feels she can’t just idly sit back. Jonas Chernick also gives a really good performance as Jason, who tries to act as the supportive husband, but it’s obvious that his frustration is that he feels that their relationship has been on standby for so long. The supporting cast that also impress are Shawn Doyle and Natalie Brown as Elliot and Sammy, a married couple that are friends with Jennifer and Jason, with Elliot being Jennifer’s colleague trying to solve the pandemic and Sammy spending time with Jason as their spouses are trying to save the world.
Ashgrove is a cleverly written drama that has an interesting pandemic concept, but what makes it really work is the drama and dynamic of the relationship between Jennifer and Jason and their friendships with Elliot and Sammy.