Directed by: Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead.
Written by: Justin Benson.
Starring: Lou Taylor Pucci (Evan), Nadia Hilker (Louise), Vanessa Bednar (Gail), Francesco Carnelutti (Angelo).
Spring mixes elements of horror and sci fi with the indie romcom stylings inspired by Richard Linklater. The resulting movie is as tonally inconsistent and messy as that brief description implies, as the elements don’t always fit very well together. But it’s also a fairly original and daring premise, and I admire directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead for attempting something this strange. It also helps that the performances by Lou Taylor Pucci and Nadia Hilker are quite good – helping to anchor a ridiculous premise in something approaching a believable reality. Spring is such an interesting premise, that I want to forgive its inconsistencies.
The movie stars Pucci as Evan, a young American who has just lost his mother to cancer, a few years after losing his father to a car accident. He gets drunk, does some stupid things, and decides to get away from his life for a while- hoping a plane to Italy. He backpacks around for a while, meets some others doing the same thing, and finally settles for a time in a small town. He gets a job helping on the farm of Angelo (Francesco Carnelutti) – who looks like he’s approximately 90 – and then meets Louise (Hilker), a beautiful, young Italian girl who he is instantly smitten with. The pair have a few of those long walk and talks that come straight from Linklater’s Before films, before they fall into bed together. Everything appears to be perfect – until a shot of the pair in sleepy, post-coital bliss reveals that Louise is hiding a dark secret.
I’m not going to reveal more of the plot than that – as part of the pleasure of the movie is the unexpected twists and turns the plot take – most revolving around Louise’s secret – which is gruesome to be sure, but also somewhat sad and tragic as well. Thematically, the movie is about fear of commitment, and love for that matter. The movie lays this on fairly thickly at times – especially during the third act, which drags and becomes increasingly ridiculous.
The first hour of Spring is where the film is at its best. The opening scenes – of Pucci hanging out with his hipster friends and then taking off for Europe – makes the film feel like a typical Sundance film. Pucci – who has starred in more than a couple of those over the years – makes what could be an annoying, navel-gazing 20-something, into a sympathetic character – reeling from the loss of his parents, as he tries to find himself. At first, Hilker’s Louise looks like she may be a typical Sundance woman – beautiful, exotic and there simply to aid in the growth of the male lead – but where her secret becomes the focus of the movies twists, she becomes more interesting.
The film gets rather boldly sentimental in its final act – and to be honest, it doesn’t really work. As the film moves along, its gets sillier and more predictable, as the movie doesn’t really give itself many ways in which it can go. Overall though, I think Spring is a fascinating, original and rather daring little movie. No, it doesn’t quite work, but it’s such an odd film, I cannot dismiss it either.