MRR Review: "Hank and Asha"

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An Indian student in Prague and a lonely New Yorker correspond online through video letters. A voyeuristic love story about aching for human connection in a hyper-connected world.
3.5

Rating: NR
Length: 73 minutes
Release Date: January 19, 2013
Directed by: James E. Duff
Genre: Comedy / Romance

"Hank and Asha" is the story of a young couple on opposite sides of the world who find themselves experiencing the ups and downs of long-distance love in the Internet age. Hank is a twenty-something filmmaker who produces an independent film that intrigues Asha, a young Indian exchange student living and studying abroad in Prague. A video question-and-answer session sparks an unexpected friendship between the two, leading them to realize that they have more in common than they ever dreamed.

As the film progresses, Hank and Asha grow closer thanks to their shared loneliness. Both characters use the Internet as a means of escaping their lackluster lives in the real world, but new technology becomes an unlikely way to find human connection and intimacy. What begins as a friendship quickly turns into a long-distance relationship. Even though Hank and Asha come from drastically different cultures, they both possess a unique quality to see the best in new experiences. This adventurous spirit is what catapults their friendship into something more serious.

The beginning of the film starts out as quirky and light, but as Hank and Asha's relationship gets challenged by reality, things take a more thoughtful turn. The viewer is given an intimate look not only into their relationship but their individual lives. Both Hank and Asha are deeply lonely individuals whose hang-ups prevent them from living up to their full potential. The film brilliantly demonstrates the progression from puppy love to an actual relationship as each character is introduced to bits and pieces of the real drama that happens once the video message ends.

Only time will tell whether Hank and Asha's love is strong enough to withstand reality and make the transition from behind-the-camera to face-to-face interaction. Asha's own insecurities may get in the way before they ever get a chance to find out. The film is full of surprising, dramatic twists that mange to keep the viewers on their toes without sacrificing the charmingly down-to-earth feel of the story. In fact, what makes "Hank and Asha" so intriguing is its sincere tone and realistic relationship dynamics.

The acting in "Hank and Asha" is second to none, thanks to Andrew Pastides and Mahira Kakkar. These relative unknowns are destined for great things in the movie industry, and their sincere performances make this independent masterpiece what it is. Kakkar is charming and just a bit naïve as the optimistic and inquisitive Asha, while Pastides is fully believable as Hank, the young and jaded hipster. It doesn't take long to fall in love with both characters, in spite or perhaps because of their faults.

No mention of "Hank and Asha" would be complete without covering the excellent work of the film's supporting cast. Hank's pub friends and Asha's friends and acquaintances from school truly make their world come alive. The colorful cast surrounding them makes the characters even easier to relate to, making sure that they are presenting themselves on film the way they are in real life, flaws, embarrassing secrets and all.

While "Hank and Asha" may have been filmed on a shoestring budget, the superb camera work and high-quality performances by its main and supporting actors makes that fact impossible to guess. Few independent films manage to straddle the line between comedy and drama so well without feeling overly scripted or clichéd. While the story feels like it could easily happen in the modern age of social media and amateur documentarians, there is still a charming element of fantasy that leaves the viewer with hope for the independent film genre. The humor is well-timed yet awkward in a charming way, and the witty Asha never misses a beat, keeping things just light enough.

Another major success factor of "Hank and Asha" is the whimsical soundtrack. Music selection can make or break any independent film, and director Duff seems to understand that better than anyone. The light and quirky songs in the soundtrack contrast nicely with darker pieces that communicate the loneliness felt by both Asha and Hank without distracting from the story itself.

"Hank and Asha" is one comedic drama that no independent film fan should miss. The main actors are smart and refreshing, making it easy to root for their blossoming romance from day one. The set-up of the story as a whole is unique and makes creative use of modern technology, giving the film a believable quality. "Hank and Asha" is a ray of hope for those wondering if finding true love is even possible in a world consumed by technology, and it shows that even the things that seem to be dividing humanity can also be used to bring the right people together.