Written by Donovan Wan
The documentary explores the teaching of the Zen Buddhist Monk, Thich Nhat Hanh. He is known for bringing Buddhism to the West, opening Plum Village Monastery in the south of France after being exiled from his home country for not supporting the Vietnam War during the 1960s. This is where Thich Nhat Hanh would spread the word of mindfulness and soon gain a large following. This mindfulness refers to a form of energy that comes from anchoring ourselves in the present, and truly appreciating what we are doing at that point in time.
Many would convert into nuns and monks to leave the materialistic life behind, no matter the color of their skin. Everyone deserves a peace of mind. In this fast-paced and overly-populated world, it is tough to actually take a break. During this break, one might still think of the work resting on your desk or the unread email with thick bolded words in the title. There are things in the past that might still haunt you, or something in the future like unpaid bills. There is no escape. Or it could just be a test on one’s state of mind. This documentary asks you to try, as gentle as it can without a hint of cringe. It can be daunting to not be cynical or sarcastic after suffering so much in one’s life.
With every quarter of an hour at Plum Village Monastery, a soothing jingle plays over a PA system. Everyone who hears it stops what they are doing, whether it is a group of people having a chat or even a band of string quartet practicing. Everyone stops. This jingle is like the opposite of an alarm clock, snapping the conscious mind back from its routine affairs. This is a common practice in Plum Village Monastery. The monks explain how it is to abstain from worrying about the past or future, things that we cannot control such as thoughts that arise when we are currently doing a task like writing this article. The disciples are the heart of this documentary, where we get to see up-close their interactions with their families during a visit to the States.
Did you ever once stand at the entrance of the arrival hall at any airport and watch families embrace the loved ones who return from a long trip? Watching parents cry when they see their children return from their long retreats, there is nothing quite like it. This profound sense of reunion, all those memories rushing back during their embrace. Just like the monks and nuns that give their parents a surprise visit, enjoying the silent appreciation of each other’s presence. The holy members also look back on their past possessions like family photos and private journals. These physical documentation feel almost alien to them, a shell of their former self that had dreams of doing well in society. Dreams such as becoming a millionaire or being married, just do not apply anymore. We get a chance to reflect on how much we suffer to keep up with the rest of society. Maybe it does not need to be like that all the time when all that matters is to be with your loved ones, and truly appreciating that present moment.
Walk with Me is the reminder that we all need in our bustling and hectic life. That everything will be alright as long as we pay attention to what is really important: ourselves. We all deserve love, just not the love we might be expecting. It is the unconditional self-love that is just so hard to accept. That may not be the comfort food we eat, or other guilty pleasures of life. But really paying attention to the quieter things, like appreciating a moment of silence to empty our mind of worry because it hurts us more than we know. Being aware of the short amount of time we have, there is no opportunity to pay attention to the past or future. All that matters is now.
This review is published as an extension of *SCAPE’s Film Critics Lab: A Writing Mentorship Programme organised by The Filmic Eye, with support from the Singapore Film Society.
About the Author: Donovan Wan studied Film at the School of Art, Design and Media. He spends his free time freelancing on shoots and doing voice overs for commercials. He is an aspiring cinematographer and hopes to continue making short films or perhaps a feature someday.
About the Movie:
Director: Marc J. Francis and Max Pugh
Cast: Thich Nhat Hanh, Benedict Cumberbatch (Narrator)
Country: United Kingdom
Language: English, French, Vietnamese
Runtime: 94 Minutes
Synopsis: A cinematic journey into the world of a monastic community that practises the art of mindfulness with Zen Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hanh.