Walk with Me (3 stars)

Walk with Me

© Speakit Productions Ltd

Benedict Cumberbatch lends his voice to a suitably gentle film on the subject of meditation

While most filmmakers seek to raise the pulse rate, a select few invite the audience to elevate themselves spiritually. Directed by Marc J Francis and Max Pugh, Walk with Me is a documentary examining life within the Plum Village monastic community in rural France, founded by Zen Master Thích Nhất Hạnh (known as Thay). Without background music and with the voiceover reduced to a few succinct teachings, the film is not just about meditation, but a meditation in itself.

Opening on a sunset and closing on a sunrise, Walk with Me describes the various states of mindfulness that followers of Buddhism may attain. A collage of incidents unfold over a three-year shoot: one shot depicts a meditating monk who can't stop getting distracted; another has brought a stuffed toy of his favourite Star Wars character Yoda on his retreat. Getting away from everyday concerns and focusing on spiritual wisdom is the goal, and Thay's teachings are expressed in a series of illustrative codas read by Benedict Cumberbatch.

This documentary does not seem to be constructed to ask questions, or even explain the story behind Plum Village, instead it leads the viewer to the point of understanding but stops short of any instruction. That may prove exasperating for some; other documentaries have offered a more detailed examination of monastic life. But there are rewards in Francis and Pugh's gentle approach: words are allowed to resonate over still, serene images, and the overall effect is arresting and calming.

Walk with Me seems intended as an accessible first step for those who want to know more about how Buddhism encourages students to live in the here and now. If you're prepared to do a little philosophical heavy-lifting for yourself, it's a thoughtful and persuasive invitation to a world of meditation.

Limited release from Fri 5 Jan.

Walk with Me

  • 3 stars
  • 2017
  • UK
  • 1h 28min
  • PG
  • Directed by: Marc J Francis, Max Pugh

Documentary about the Plum Village monastic community in France, founded by Zen Master Thích Nhất Hạnh. Some may find the lack of story or explanation exasperating, but the overall approach is to lead the viewer to the point of understanding without preaching. It’s a thoughtful and persuasive invitation to a world of…

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