Over the course of three years, Max Pugh and Marc J. Francis followed the life of 91-year, zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh and got unprecedented access to Plum Village, his monastery in the South of France. The result is Walk with me, a beautiful cinematic journey into the world of mindfulness and life in the monastery, with a focus on stillness and contemplation (if you watch the trailer below, you’ll probably listen to roughly 50% of the total narration in the 90 minute film!).
The documentary captures the daily routine of the Sangha and their teacher, Thay, as they refer to him, through the seasons: from winter in the monastery through to the arrival of retreatants in the warmer months (over 10,000 every year) and ordination of new monks and nuns, shedding light into what it looks like to devote one’s life to the pursuit of a simple, joyful, deeply connected and present life.
This fascinating exploration also follows a group of monks and nuns on a trip to North America, leaving some moving and funny moments. My favourite was when Sister An Nghiem (Sister Peace) was visiting her dad whom she only gets to meet every two years since ordination. In a moment full of tenderness and emotions, her dad and Sister Peace were visibly moved appreciating the moment and each others company, referring to it as “heaven on Earth”. Her reaction when she looks up and sees what the rest of her family is up to is priceless.
Benedict Cumberbatch sprinkles the documentary with selected passages from ‘Fragrant Palm Leaves’, a journal that Thich Nhat Hanh wrote in the 1960s, where he describes in wondrous detail his feelings about being true to himself and committing to his path.