Review: ‘Walk With Me,’ an Invitation From Thich Nhat Hanh

 A scene from “Walk With Me,” about a community of Zen Buddhists in rural France.CreditSpeakit Productions Ltd/GathrFilms

nytimes_Cooling to the mind and soothing to the spirit, the documentary “Walk With Me” offers a tiny oasis of relief to anyone overheated by current events. When you feel like freaking out, the movie’s commitment to slowing down and drawing inward doesn’t seem like such a bad idea.


Maintaining a respectful, purely observational approach, the directors Max Pugh and Marc J. Francis introduce us to Plum Village, a community of Zen Buddhists in rural France. Here, life moves at a snail’s pace: Walking or eating, cooking or contemplating the words of their Vietnamese teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh — many of which are supplied in voice-over by the seductive, milk-and-honey baritone of Benedict Cumberbatch — the nuns and monks dawdle contentedly. A fleeting admission of boredom is met with beatific smiles, and the most lively debate occurs over which stick might best be used to beat a drum.

Forced into exile in 1966 over his opposition to the Vietnam War, Thich Nhat Hanh, now 90, is credited with introducing the practice of mindfulness to welcoming Westerners. Yet the film supplies little in the way of background or history, either of the serene, anonymous faces that float across the frame or of the achievements of their celebrated Zen master. Instead, we’re dipped in and out of random rituals and events (including a 2011 teaching tour) without benefit of dates, locations or explanations.

Sometimes dreamy but mostly dissatisfying, “Walk With Me” offers no clarity for the curious. We can enjoy the meditative mood, but understanding its underpinnings would require more than this idyll of silence and stillness provides.

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