A charming and easy-going, yet deeply emotionally resonant story, it was no surprise that Hank and Asha won an Audience Choice Award at the most recent Bend Film Festival. It was the second stop for the film, after a debut at Slamdance, the slightly more populist film festival to its sibling, more snotty and critic-driven Sundance. At Slamdance, the film also won an Audience Award.
Yet, for all this love, critics still only relent a 59% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes (although perhaps not surprisingly the audience rate is 81%, a clear division between the film's artistry and likability).
Since the Bend Film Festival, Hank and Asha has been busy, touring the country, with openings in New York and LA, and shows in Omaha and art houses in South Carolina and Pennsylvania. The movie returns this week to Tin Pan Theater—and, like hearing that a high school sweetheart is coming home after college, it is a pleasant bit of news. Even if not a wildly clever remake of the standard boy-meets-girl shtick, the film is imminently likable.
Both testament to modern communication and traditional courtship, Hank and Asha is an endearing romantic story about two budding filmmakers. The two first meet after Asha, a cute young Indian studying film in Prague, sends a video to Hank, who is living in New York. It is a believable enough premise: Hank is a twentysomething filmmaker whose film has screened at some sort of film festival in Europe, but he didn't attend the event. After Hank responds to Asha's first inquiry in kind—with a candid video sent back to her—the story is off to the races. Quickly, these exchanges—and the storyline—move past this awkward and slightly creepy beginning into a sincere and intimate correspondence. The resulting story is a candid love story, one that is simultaneously intimate and distant, as the characters are carrying on a dialogue without ever really meeting, and one that layers cuteness, vulnerability, loneliness and humor. Both characters are imminently likable—and real—which is good, as the story really is only an exchange between these two young filmmakers. And fortunately both characters are complex—funny, lonely, curious and goofy. They are young and their lives are only beginning to lose the giddiness of youthful dreams and opportunities. Hank and Asha imports some of the "what if" premises of Before Sunrise and the playfulness of Amélie, and the result is a sweet, enchanting love story told the way perhaps too many contemporary love stories really are told—by electronic exchanges trying to exact the exchanges of real life.
Dir. James Duff
Tin Pan Theatre