springSpring weaves together familiar cinematic strands to fashion a strangely beautiful and original tapestry. The sophomore effort by the filmmaking team of Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, the duo responsible for the well received 2012 horror thriller Resolution, is a hybrid of genres, with elements of horror, science fiction, and romance in a near-perfect ratio. The film invites a mash-up movie pitch, i.e.; it’s (movie A) meets (movie B), as do the filmmakers – literally. During the Q&A session after a screening of the film at the London Film Festival, Benson and Moorhead encouraged the audience to come up with their own, like Spring is Say Anything meets Species or EuroTrip meets Lifeforce or An American Werewolf in London meets An American Werewolf in Paris. The game is almost as much as fun as the movie.

Spring is, in fact, great fun. It’s about love and relationships and monsters and immortality and trust and acceptance and tolerance and selfishness and secrets. It’s like Gone Girl meets Gone Girl.

Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci) is reeling from a couple of body blows that life has dealt him. First, he loses his mother to cancer in a touching, understated start to the film. Then, on the day he buries her, he beats the living hell out of a scumbag in a bar and has the police after him. That gives him everything he needs to take off for Europe: a passport, some money, and absolutely no reason to stay in California. Evan is also given a little too much backstory by screenwriter Moorhead. It adds nothing to the movie to be told that he went to UC Berkeley or is working as a sous chef. Simple rule to remember next time: show don’t tell, and if you don’t have time to show it, it doesn’t need to be in the movie.

Evan arrives in Rome where he falls in with a couple of British layabouts on an extended vacation who invite him along for a drive up the coast. Nick Nevern as Thomas, who dispenses beers and insight on the car ride, is a particular treat. It is a real testament to Benson and Moorhead’s abilities that the early going of the film is so well done and so entertaining that it is very easy for the viewer to sit back and wait for the story to develop. That occurs when Evan lays eyes on Louise (Nadia Hilker), an exotic beauty who is willing to sleep with Evan, but refuses to date him. He pursues and woos; she resists, then submits. Evan convinces a local farmer named Angelo (Francesco Carnelutti) to provide room, board, and cryptic advice in exchange for marginally competent day laboring. It would all be idyllic if Louise didn’t run so hot and cold. It’s almost as if she is hiding some hideous secret…

Hilker is beautiful, Pucci is convincing, Benson’s photography is stunning (particularly the use of a drone to capture dramatic overhead shots that previously would have required a helicopter), and Moorhead’s dialogue is sharp. In areas that become increasingly important as the narrative unfolds, special effects and make-up, the responsible teams turn in first-rate work.

Spring is a triumph for all, especially for co-directors Benson and Moorhead. Perhaps the single best thing about Spring is that it ends exactly at the moment it should. With so many films overstaying their welcomes, it is a pleasure to see a movie that knows the precise moment to go to black.

Four stars.

 

 

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Comments
  1. Gone Girl meets Gone Girl… 10 points!

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