Ashgrove doesn’t waste any time getting into motion as it’s all the better for it because as soon as we enter Ashgroves lucid domestic nightmare it’s a gripping and enthralling ride. After a brief establishing sequence we’re brought to ‘Ashgrove’, a farm that harbours mysterious secrets and unsteady relations all disguised as a serene getaway at this house of impending ruin which serves as the central setting for the ensuing psychological thriller that mixes cabin fever with an unsteady, broken relationship simmering on the edges of failure. The underlying risk of collapse is the catalyst for all of Ashgroves best moments and the key element that completes the package. The film is about a scientist at the forefront of a global pandemic who is advised to take a relaxing break for a couple days to unwind however all is not as it seems as Ashgrove keeps you guessing up until the last moment with the plethora of mysteries and twists it throws at you along the way. The explicit character drama has no real connection or tangible throughline with the film’s sci-fi element; The toxic water that has left the world in a global pandemic. The character writing was definitely the strongest aspect of the 2 sides. The sci-fi elements of toxic water felt strong in theory however in execution they felt underdeveloped for my liking. It felt as though it could have been handled in a way that further strengthened the relationship drama however as it stands it only serves to divert attention away and devalue the realistic troubles the 2 leads experience.
The film hinges on it’s character drama which is made as effective as it is thanks to it’s 2 strong leads; Amanda Brugel and Jonas Chernick. The cast might be small but that toned down scale lends itself perfect for the intimate drama on display and heightened the comparatively large or dramatic theatrics taking place. Everyone plays their roles admirably and the obvious highlight would be Brugel who conveys clear anxiety, elation, anger and sorrow all at once effortlessly.
A sharp editing style that cleanly compacts it’s slow burn into a tight hour and a half leaving an intriguing thriller that doesn’t overstay its welcome while also doing its job at crafting a consistently engaging story.
An understated yet wildly effective element is the score. An element that rarely feels overbearing or explicit but like the ticking time bomb of character emotions boiling under the surface it subtly seeps into the viewers mind, gradually pushing the tense energy further and further into an unsettling nightmare.
Ashgrove is at it’s best in its disorientating moments of domestic disarray, it’s a stylistically pleasing film and delivers a satisfying narrative with an effective twist and great use of mystery.
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