Religion is a personal journey and subjective, an experience that is not always accepted by those around us. In the grand scheme of things, the former is what’s important beyond all of it, no matter what form the religion takes what matters above all else is the truth we gain from it. It’s also a journey in which the ending is unknown, unfolding as it should for the individual, and when it’s expressed in a movie that unique path can be difficult to showcase. In Ben Rekhi’s new film The Ashram, the journey towards truth is exposed in a way that mimics this personal revelation in a respectable manner.
The Ashram follows Jaime (Sam Keeley) as he searches for his missing girlfriend Sophie (Hera Hilmar). After receiving a cryptic message from her, Jaime travels to India to retrace her steps in hopes of finding the truth behind her disappearance. As his pursuit comes closer to a resolution and revelation, more and more questions arise in unexpected areas.
India is a magical place, and The Ashram uses this to expose the connectivity of the film’s characters with the mysticism surrounding the religion at the center of the film. The chaotic world that exists in India and the peacefulness that flows in this mysterious sanctuary that Sophie was involved in is a nice balance. This balance is presented in a way that these contradictory moods become the two sides of the personality, the outwards appearance versus the inner peace we all seek to find. It’s because of this representation that the audience believes Sophie’s involvement with this group, and the hesitancy believing an ill intent from it’s members.
This movie becomes powerful when one suspends the construct of reality and focuses on the belief of religion. That’s not to say that what is shown in this film is not truth, but it’s only truth if you allow it to be. It’s different then the expected disbelief of sci-fi films, but there is a notion of the grey area that surrounds the situations presented in The Ashram. After all, that is a film about a religious journey and what religion can mean to the individual. If one chooses to believe, anything is possible. Belief is all we have, and as expressed in this film, this will decide the audience’s path as the film progresses.
The situations in The Ashram are a mirage of double-sided coins, ones in which the viewer has to choose which side to believe. The perfect example of this is Melissa Leo’s character, Chandra. Throughout her introduction, we can never place her in the column for hero or villain. At times she seems to be a guide for those to seek truth, and at other times she becomes a hinderance to exploration. Her conflicting function is never forced, and instead is used as a device to ignite the second half of the film. Sometimes the best antagonists are the ones that are their own protagonists, and Leo is perfect in this role.
The film does take a slight turn off the expected road of travel and switches to showcase a different type of thriller, one that seems to have been hidden just behind the tree line. When this shift first takes place, it’s a little jaunting, yet it is a nice change to your expectations. Once the viewer is willing to move past the bumpy change in course, the movie opens up to a new experience. It’s more than a typical thriller, but if you were expecting that, you might be disappointed.
For me, this film is about second chances. We all encounter roadblocks and challenges that prevent us from moving forward, but if we are willing to take the time to look beyond what’s in front of us, those blocks can be removed. However, whether we have a guide or use our own introspection, we can only experience second chances if we are willing to look inside ourselves. It is in the acknowledgement of our truths that we can move past barricades.
This might be a very personal take on this film, but shouldn’t that be what these type of films represent to people? Our life is unique, and meaning can be found in a way that’s meant for only us. That is what The Ashram can represent, a way to help one accept their truth and move past to continue down their paths with clear vision.
The Ashram is a film that allows for endless possibilities, transcending genres, and a revelation of unexpected truths. The enjoyment of this film comes to those who are willing to believe. The Ashram is available for digital rent of own on VOD platforms.
Written by Lisa Mejia
Images provided by The Orchard