Spring (15) | Close-Up Film Review


Dir. Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, US, 2014, 109 mins

Cast: Lou Taylor Pucci, Nadia Hilker, Francesco Carnelutti, Jeremy Gardner, Vinny Curran, Nick Nevern, Shane Brady, Chris Palko

As a filmic creature, Spring is as much a mash-up of genres as its featured creature is a mash-up of monsters. To say more about the film’s ‘antagonist’ is to betray one of its more enjoyable plot points, so this review will ostensibly focus on the overall themes of the film, which are a treat to view. The plot follows a young American man named Evan (an endearing Lou Taylor Pucci) who decides to travel around Europe following the death of his mother and the end of his attachments to his one-horse hometown (bar his best friend, a hilarious performance from indie horror’s friendliest beard, Jeremy Gardner). He winds up in a picturesque, rural and remote town somewhere in Italy, where he strikes up a believable romance with local stunner Nadia Hilker, playing a mysterious beauty named Louise.

Following all the casual set-up (which includes a hilarious turn by two likely English lads which gives the opening 20 minutes a bit of pep – and for once doesn’t have you hating British characters in American indies), the film dovetails within itself. Pucci and Hilker’s whirlwind romance positively screams with the influence of Linklater’s Before Sunrise trilogy, with all its redolent prefixes and suffixes. Directors Benson and Moorhead ably capture the romanticism that comes free with the young, strange lovers whose interactions are infused palpably with the setting of the Mediterranean sun each night. Indeed, you find yourself nostalgic for holiday romances that you never experienced.

Following this are Louise’s constant cryptic references to all the unexplained reasons she can’t and shouldn’t be with Evan. Swiftly followed by the seeming revelation of Louise as a vampire, things only get weirder, and the casual viewer will find themselves adrift in this abnormality of a sub-genre when they realise they don’t know what the hell she is. Spring will have you wait like the rest of us until it’s good and ready to give you its (admittedly confusing) explanation. Don’t stop listening to the exposition for a second, lest you lose your grasp of what the f*ck is up with Louise.

From there, it’s a half-fascinating, half-frustrating exercise in Evan continuing to want to be with Louise, regardless of her “condition”, which obviously he becomes aware of. The fear factor drips away as instead we find ourselves watching an allegory for Evan’s remaining hang-ups with watching his mother die from cancer whilst remaining within close, personal touching distance of her, such as he is with Louise; in danger from the monster but still very much within reach of her heart and affection when she is simply Louise.

The layers extend even deeper when we apply Evan’s experiences with all romantic entanglements – most stringently the fact that in meeting new flames, we always put our best foot forward. We present our best possible selves and hope that our first, second and third dates don’t reveal any of our worst possible traits; which we absolutely know to exist, and also know that it’d take the unconditional love of a person before they are forgiven and even cherished. The romance between Evan and Louise condenses those thoughts, feelings and experiences into a week’s worth of romance, with the kicker being that Louise’s worst possible trait has a killer instinct and dangerous side effects.

As a treatise on young, fresh love and romance, Spring works. The horror angle just gives it an interesting angle to approach it from, resulting in a much-deserved sweet, saccharine ending with portents of doom. Purveyors of video nasties and B-movie shlockers need not apply. If you like {500} Days of Summer, you should probably check it out.

Review by Daniel Woburn

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