DVD: Walk With Me (2017)
Opening with new members of the… sect? community? Having their heads shaved you can immediately see that these people are extremely happy to be losing their hair as the massive smiles and look of … peacefulness, is palpable.
It’s quite nice to watch a documentary concerned with quietness, stillness and contemplation, but I fear it’s very slowly paced, not much happening, narrative will put a lot of people off after the first 15 minutes.
Walk with Me is a study of the 91-year-old Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, and his retreat in Plum Village in south-west France. His teachings are credited with the phenomenal success of mindfulness along with Jon Kabot-Zinn.
Thich Nhát Hanh who was exiled during the Vietnam war is a potentially fascinating subject, particularly as he lost the power of speech after a stroke in 2014. However we learn nothing about his history or his essence, as the film is a brief look at the whole community.
It does have some ‘warm’ moments, at the amazing Plum Village (around £500 a week which I was surprised at, I really do think it’s a bargain for what you get) ,a young girl asks him: ‘I had a doggy and the doggy died and I was very sad so I want to know how to be not so sad?” His answer is considered and quite lovely, describing how after death we become/continue as something else (basically plant food), however the kid looks totally confused. No actual residents are interviewed, the story and camera remains on his ‘disciples’ and it’s not in-depth.
On a visit to America we see Hanh listed at a New York venue appearing between gigs by Tony Bennett and Weird Al Yankovic, which is a little weird but also quite endearing. One of the Sisters (who is American) manages to see her elderly father, and here is the real essence of the film for me; her dad cries, he’s old, she is calm, she is totally at one with herself, her life, and although she obviously cares about her dad, who she hasn’t seen for years, it’s pretty obvious her mind is on higher things. Later, visiting a women’s detention centre in New York, sisters answer questions from the bemused inmates. Yes, they are celibate, no, they own no worldly goods. Their master is a bit like “Yoda in Star Wars”.
It’s a shame the filmmakers didn’t make more of a documentary portrait of Thich Nhát Hanh. It’s more random than that, and ironically for a film about the transformation of suffering into the practice of mindfulness, these competing narrative strands make for a jerky viewing experience. Here’s a turtle on a branch, there’s a Christian street preacher shouting at the community as they publicly meditate, and here’s more Cumberbatch. Ah yes, Benedict does some voiceover, reading from Hanh’s early writings. And of course it sounds lovely, but there’s no explanation of when or why. But then this could be a mindful film – be in the moment, only hear what is happening now.
A flawed film but even so, its sense of calm is contagious.
Walk With Me is released on 30th April 2018 and you can buy it by clicking HERE. ALL money raised by purchasing from Amazon via our website is given back to our listeners and followers in upcoming competition prizes. The more people buy, the bigger our prizes.