Ash is a character study that leads audiences one way, only to twist the story into a tough and disturbing direction.

An unsettling turning point sends a shockwave through the life of Stan (Tim Guinee), a Canadian reporter based out of Peachland, British Columbia who is documenting the continuous spread of local wildfires. At first, Stan seems to be having an internal crisis. He’s covering a natural disaster that has no end in sight, which tears up his health and personal life as he spends late nights wrestling his unwavering mind. It turns out his sleepless nights and distracted thoughts are, in fact, driven by a daring psychological push that motivates Stan to test the lengths of what he’s able to do and get away with. An unwell state of mind that gets him in trouble when he begins experimenting with pedophiliac tendencies.

I wasn’t sure if I was going to like the drastic change to Guinee’s character considering how well Stan’s pensive solidarity was applied to the disaster he was covering. However, writer/director Andrew Huculiak justifies his choices decently by sustaining challenges for Guinee to chew on, while pitching ethical conundrums for the audience. The film boldly asks Guinee to create a conflicted personality for movie goers to connect with, and the actor comes through. Huculiak is careful not to create sympathy for Stan, but he wants to add identifiable dimension to Stan’s line-crossing adrenaline rush. The audience, left with plenty of evidence to build a case on, works up an opinion on Stan. And just as we commit to our theories, Huculiak throws more at us.

Even though Ash may be a touch too long as it indigoes its arthouse qualities, Andrew Huculiak’s drama takes hold of audiences with a tight grip. It may not be an easy film to recommend, but Ash is a strong pick for viewers looking for a challenge.


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