DVD Movie Review: Walk With Me

By Thom Compton 25.01.2018

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Walk With Me (UK Rating: PG)

The name Thich Naht Hanh is probably not a common household name, unless you subscribe to the ideas of finding peace and bliss in this world. Setting up a small village, called Plum Village, in France, Thich Naht Hanh subscribes to the idea of finding peace in this lifetime. He believes this so deeply that it ended up getting him exiled from his native Vietnam during the Vietnam War.

Walk With Me, released on DVD earlier this month via Thunderbird Releasing, is two filmmakers' attempts at letting viewers explore the world of Plum Village in the same way a documentary on polar bears might work. There is no narration, save the occasional passage reading from Benedict Cumberbatch from Thich Naht Hanh's writings. Instead, images and scenes are shown merely as they catch the filmmakers' fancy, or at least that's how it comes off. Especially for the first half hour or so, it's often hard to tell what exactly is going on due to a lack of context.

Cumberbatch does a fine job with his narration, but the very presence of the narration can often lend to the confusion. Is what he's saying pertinent to the things the audience has just seen, or the things that are coming up? Worst of all, does it not matter at all? It's hard to tell, honestly, and while the aloof and almost meditative way in which the film plays out does tie it, thematically, to the mantra of the group's leader, it makes enjoying the film something people will have to actively pursue, not something that will occur naturally.


 
Again, it makes sense, it just doesn't make an engaging film. Thich Naht Hanh teaches about living in the moment, and many of his ideas are extremely abstract. At one point, one of his followers explains to an outsider the group's idea of sound, and her explanation gets fairly convoluted. This isn't a detriment to the film; it's quite honestly fascinating. However, if you're the type to roll your eyes at "Meditating to Peruvian Flute Bands Vol. 2," you may find a lot of the explanations of the group's beliefs frustrating. Then again, you're probably not watching this.

That's because Walk With Me is the kind of movie that will appeal to a very specific sector. What's interesting is that some might fit into that group who do not know it yet. The entire experience doesn't follow this disjointed and confusing approach, and by the end, it's clearly a film about people, not beliefs. Their beliefs are definitely fascinating, but what's more fascinating is what the group is willing to give up for their beliefs. The sacrifices are amazing, and when Walk With Me shows those kinds of moments, and in such an apt way, it becomes clear this had potential.

Sadly, it spends so much of its time not framing any moments that all too often it just feels messy. Perhaps it wants you to make your own interpretation of the moments unfolding in front of your eyes. That's a big gamble if so, and because of that, only so many people are truly going to appreciate what it's aiming to do.

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

Clearly designed to feel as deep and thoughtful as the people it's examining, this results in a polarising film that's going to either inspire or irritate. What one person will see as a beautiful collection of images and words, connected only by minute threads, another will see as a confusing and haphazard mess. The reason the film scores as it does is because it's clearly walking that line, and while it doesn't always work, it is fascinating watching it try. From moments of confusion to moments of awe, Walk With Me will either make your heart soar, or your head hurt.

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