The Ashram (2018) [Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles 2018]

After Sophie disappears while on a spiritual trip, Jamie goes to the Himalayas to find her and bring her home. While there, he meets a group of people who believe in a higher power he doesn’t understand.

Written by Binky Mendez and Ben Rekhi with Rekhi directing, the film created here by the two of them has a very “American abroad” feel to it with the lead, the missing girl, and a few others being distinctly non-locals. This doesn’t mean it isn’t a good film, the story is simply built to appeal to travelers and people who like discovering foreign beliefs and traditions, real or fictional, and are open to potential supernatural or god-like happenings. The film does well of showing how this all affects and leave an impression on its two leads.

Playing the lead of Jamie is actor Sam Keeley who plays concerned boyfriend and skeptic rather well here, getting the viewers involved in the story and caring about his fate and that of his missing loved one. Playing this character, the center of the quest, is played by actress Hera Hilmar who makes quite the impression through just a short time on screen. Playing a mysterious figure in the group of believers is Melissa Leo who does fantastic work as can be expected of her. Her character of Chandra comes off iffy and untrustworthy to those who are not part of the religious group she is from, showing her talent and its extent. More local actors are seen throughout, and while most will not be all that familiar (except for Kal Penn), they all do work that must be commended.

The film sports a few scenes with absolutely stunning cinematography by Nikos Andritsakis which elevate the film’s style and its quality. These few scenes are beautifully shot with a flair for the slightly post-card-ish at times which isn’t bad here. The rest of the films tackles the story with straight-on images, letting the viewer make their own minds as to what is important in the film.

These images are supported, in a few select scenes, by visual effects done by a team under visual effects supervisor Roopesh Gujar. These are peppered throughout the film and used sparingly to keep their effect more impactful with the viewer and keep the fantasy/sci-fi angle at a minimum for the whole film.

The Ashram is a film with an interesting enough story of a fish out of water learning to adapt and be more opened to the unknown or unfamiliar as he learns about the world and how it functions on the Himalayas. The writing, directing, and acting are done with talent while the cinematography gives the viewer beautifully stunning images here and there. While the film feels a bit long it doesn’t lose its audience’s attention thanks to the images and performances it offers.