Jeremy LaLonde’s near-future sci-fi, written prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, sees humanity threatened by an even more serious plague: a fungus in the world’s water supplies that leads to certain death, with strictly rationing water intake the only way to survive and live a semi-normal life. The world has largely adapted to this ‘new normal’, with conversations about hand sanitisers, safety gloves, and water intake an unspectacular element of small talk. Dr Jennifer Ashgrove (Amanda Brugel) is a top international scientist working on an antidote, but the stress of the high-stakes work is taking its toll. After a series of blackouts, she is given leave from work to go to a farmhouse and recuperate with her husband. As they settle into a holiday with visiting friends, however, layers of secrets will have repercussions on their marriage and the fate of humankind. 

LaLonde and his writing team created the film chronologically, working on a scene-by-scene basis of scenarios and motivations and letting much of the dialogue unfold from this structured exploration. This impromptu script is naturalistic almost to a fault, and some structure and nuance around the reveals would have helped its points land harder. As it stands, much crucial information is delivered in lengthy expositions between characters, killing momentum when the emotion should hit hardest. However, the easy chemistry and genuine reactions that the cast uncover – notably the work Brugel does – propels Ashgrove forward, hinting at the fractures that will soon upend her life, marriage, and view of the world.  

The ambition and easy cast chemistry of Ashgrove mark it as a promising debut feature; with its intimate focus, it is the rare plague film that still feels fresh. However, its pacing and over-reliance on exposition in its closing minutes, when the pieces fall into place, ultimately dampen its impact. 



CAST: Amanda Brugel, Jonas Chernick, Natalie Brown, Shawn Doyle

DIRECTOR: Jeremy LaLonde

WRITER: Jeremy LaLonde,  Amanda Brugel, Jonas Chernick, Spencer Giese 

SYNOPSIS: Water consumption has become deadly; a burnt-out scientist takes time off her research in the countryside with her husband, where secrets come to the fore.