Ashgrove is a story about relationships at the end of the world. Jennifer is a scientist who is working on a cure for a global plague when she has a blackout. She gets put on leave, taking a weekend off for the first time in a year to go relax. Her husband Jason takes her up to their house in the country for some R&R, but the wear and tear in their relationship from a year of constant stress starts to show.
At first, my worry going into the film was this was gonna be a ‘poor female scientist, undone by her own womb and need for the love of a man’ kinda story. Like, she’s saving the world from annihilation, and you’re focusing on how her love life is going. But the plague thing is really just a device for giving stakes to what is first and foremost a relationship drama. I found it actually kinda funny, because the movie asks, “Could you hold together your marriage if the world depended on it?” and the answer is largely no.
Jason is raging that his emotional needs have not been met in a very long time, and he’s made to feel guilty for even having them. Jennifer is raging that she can’t leave Jason alone for a year to do literally the most important thing in the world, without him acting like it’s too big an ask from their marriage. He supposedly swore a commitment for as long as they both shall live, but he needs babysat if left by himself for any amount of time. Both of them are right, and both of them are wrong, and how much you care about this is up to you. I was a bit like, if the world’s gonna end, just be single for a year, I mean if ever circumstances justified a free pass, I dunno.
Spoilers ahead FYI
About two-thirds of the way through the film, it’s revealed that this weekend is actually a reconstruction of the weekend Jennifer had in her blackout, at the culmination of which she solved the cure for the plague in her head. However, before she was able to tell anything other than that she’d realised the answer, she went into her blackout, and lost her memory of it. Lol. This isn’t particularly surprising because you see her leaving the voicemail about solving the problem in the opening scene, and see her husband ticking off a list of activities on his phone when they first arrive at the country house. So not a huge reveal, but definitely a headfuck for the main character. Everyone had hoped that reconstructing events would have led her to have the same epiphany.
I guess Ashgrove attempts to capture what it feels like to save a failing marriage, that the weight of the world is on your shoulders, that it is literally the end of the world if you fail. And the performances of Amanda Brugel as Jennifer and Jonas Chernick as Jason are very good, their fighting feels very realistic and organic. But I dunno, I just never felt all that invested in their relationship. As I say, if it’s making you miserable, just be single while you try to save the world. Or let Jason dip his wick wherever if it stops him being a snarky sulk. Priorities, people! Seems like these are solvable problems.