Love is a monster.
Spring is a difficult film to categorize; it’s not a horror per say, given that it’s more focused on its mythological elements, playing out like a lovecraftian love story, one where our protagonists must overcome a number of bizarre obstacles and irreversible choices in order to stay together. Slowly paced and slickly shot, Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead’s memorable little indie flick combines elements from Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise (1995) with Cronenberg visuals, in a one-of-a-kind mashup that successfully blends multiple genres together. Taking into account the flick’s carefully plotted narrative, even the most vigilant write-up risks revealing a little too much, so those who wish to experience the film ‘spoiler free’ should just skip ahead to the final paragraph.
So, just like its double entendre title suggests, Spring is a picture about rebirth, change and renewal. It tells the story of Evan Russell (Lou Taylor Pucci), a Southern California resident who hastily travels to the Italian capital, after the death of his ailing mother Nicole (Holly Hawkins), leaving his job — at local bar and grill — and perpetually stoned friend, Tommy (Jeremy Gardner) behind. When arriving in Rome, Evan meets a pair of hard-drinking British travelers, Thomas (Nick Nevern) and Sam (Jonathan Silvestri), whose escapades lead him to a coastal town where he makes eye contact with a beautiful young woman dressed in a striking red dress, who we eventually learn is Louise (Nadia Hilker). After the British geezers move on to Amsterdam, Evan stays in Rome, determined to peruse this seductive beauty. Attaining job as a farm assistant with an elderly widow named Angelo (Francesco Carnelutti), Evan eventually tracks Louise down and develops a connection with the arresting woman, the pair forming a friendship that’s genuinely romantic yet very confusing. You see, at times Louise is warm, energetic and sensual, but at others, it’s as if someone’s flipped a switch, with Louise becoming cold, distant and mysterious. Alas, as Evan pries deeper into Louise’s erratic behavior, he finds himself face-to-face with the shocking truth behind her dark, primordial secret.
Anchored by two very talented young leads, Spring never feels contrived or forced, with the central relationship playing out as though it’s spontaneous and off-the-cut. What’s more, the pair’s bond unfolds so naturally, right before viewer’s very eyes, with these two charismatic individuals sparking a connection that many other (similarly themed) pictures wish they could have achieved. Bringing conviction to his role, Lou Taylor Pucci, Evil Dead (2013), gives an engaging, naturalistic performance as Evan Russell, a lost twenty-something on a journey of self-discovery whilst newcomer Nadia Hilker is both charismatic and alluring, bringing depth to the very guarded Louise, a woman harboring a complicated past.
Unlike Australia’s Spierig Brothers, Predestination (2014), the Benson-Moorhead team, Resolution (2012), are not blood-related, nonetheless these guys — who call themselves ‘filmmaker hobos’ — work extremely well together; Justin Benson generally does the writing, Aaron Moorhead the cinematography, with both directing, editing and producing. Spring, their second full-length feature, exists as a confident low budget effort, one that retains a naturalistic quality throughout; the actors walk, talk and interact in a way that’s very true-to-life, the photography, music and sound design are all quite minimalistic too, with the film’s many striking shots evoking reality opposed to something that’s been extracted from a travel catalog. Intercut with various shots of flora, fauna and insects, the picture captures a real sense of authenticity. Furthermore, the majority of the picture’s special effects are achieved via practical means, with CGI being used to just to polish some of the rougher details, blending the on-set stuff into the frame. That being said, Spring showcases some of the most beautifully twisted imagery seen this year, quite the accomplishment for a micro budget feature.
Spring really comes together in its third act, when it unravels its mystery and viewers get a explanation into Louise’s metabolic condition; a revelation that enriches the film, encompassing history, science and metaphysics, whilst posing a number of questions in regard to the nature of human existence. Interestingly it’s revealed that Louise is an evolutionary anomaly who has been alive for thousands of years, her ‘monster’ aspects being just an implication of her immortality; she only has to deal with these ghastly characteristics once every twenty years, which isn’t really much of an issue if managed properly. The real challenge however, lies in whether Louise is willing to give up her perpetual existence in order to regress back into a regular human being, to live a mortal, normal life with Evan. This is touching thought provoking stuff, shedding light on notions of morality, mortality and even religion.
More surreal than scary, this travelogue romance takes a tried worn-out formula and presents it in a fresh and surprising way. Elevated by strong performances from its credible stars, Lou Taylor Pucci and the mesmerizing Nadia Hilker, Spring proves that the quality of a film should never be determined by its budget. You know, even Cthulhu itself might shed a tear here, watching one of its very own beasties fall in love.
4 / 5 – Recommended
Reviewed by Mr. Movie
Spring is released through Madman Entertainment Australia