Updated: Apr 28, 2020
Director – Max Pugh, Marc James Francis
Screenplay – Max Pugh, Marc James Francis
Cast – Benedict Cumberbatch
Plot – Cumberbatch narrates over this close look at a monastic community in Plum Village in south-west France which follows the teachings of mindfulness by world-famous Zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh.
Intimately following members of the community, Pugh and Francis’ documentary relies on a more show-and-less-tell form of story-telling, with long stretches of screen time devoted to monks praying, followers chanting while elevated with beautiful landscape scenery and undisturbed nature.
Cumberbatch lends a calming voice of tranquillity as he narrates master Thick Nhat Hanh’s writings over the stunning cinematography. Between these sections, we also glimpse the types of living conditions of the monastic community (barely beds, ants crawling around the floor) and the types of sacrifices endured – no material possessions, no relationships – as well as a touching scene when a female member visits her elderly father outside of the community for the first time in two years.
The film is languid, at times challenging and certainly not for everyone. However, for those curious in the subject of mindfulness, this is a serene, quiet observation of the community and is a welcome palette cleanser from the CGI blockbusters of the modern era or even the stresses and complexities of everyday life.