‘Spring’: Toronto Review
American Lou Taylor Pucci falls for mysterious European beauty Nadia Hilker in Italy in Co-directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead’s follow-up to ‘Resolution’
Following on from their justly admired debut Resolution (2012), co-directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead continue their fascination with genre mash-ups with the ebullient Spring. Where Resolution interleaved Cabin in the Woods-style meta-horror with mumblecore realism, Spring mixes about half that genre DNA to produce a talky romantic, Before Sunrise-style encounter between two appealing young lovers (Lou Taylor Pucci and Nadia Hilker) spiked with horror/sci-fi elements. A good bit more commercial than Resolution, Spring will flower at further festivals following its Toronto premiere, and set down roots on the specialist circuit.
First met keeping vigil by the deathbed of his mother (Holly Hawkins), Evan (Taylor Pucci, from Thumbsucker) is an essentially decent young man from Southern California who’s had some bad luck, having lost both parents quite recently. When a brawl in a bar on the day of his mother’s funeral makes things a little too hot at home, he impulsively decides to skip town and go to the first place a travel agent on the phone recommends. Apparently, per the agent, “white people love Italy,” so that’s where he heads.
From Rome, he drifts south with hard-partying backpackers met in a hostel to a picturesque town near the coast. Seduced by the beauty of the area and taking a fancy to a striking woman who catches his eye (German-born but multilingual Nadia Hilker, the film’s big find), Evan decides to stay when his friends move on. He takes a bed-and-board job working for a local olive farmer (Francesco Carnelutti), and before long he meets up with the woman again, who turns out to be a highly intelligent genetics student named Louise with a sharp sense of humor and strong sex drive. The two are soon making the beast with two backs on a regular basis, and talking long into the night. However, on somesubjects, like her past history, Louise is oddly reticent.
It turns out that… well, finding out why Louise requires regular, surreptitious injections and where the film’s mostly just glimpsed CGI and prosthetic effects fit in is part of the fun. At one point near the end, a baffled and shocked Evan asks her if she’s a “vampire, werewolf, zombie, witch or alien,” and it’s to the film’s credit that it has kept up the tease for as long as it has done to this point suggesting all — or none — of the above.
It’s unfortunate that when the answer comes it requires so much explication (in marked contrast to the almost perversely withholding Resolution) it slows down the emotional momentum. Taylor Pucci and Hilker have such a lively, electric chemistry with each other by this point it would be more satisfying to hear their dialogue touch on feelings in a more nuanced way than to have it come in fits and starts between big gobs of backstory clarification. But in terms of how horror or sci-fi elements work on a metaphoric level in genre films, the thing going on with Louise makes for a nice, suggestive stand-in for young women’s fear of commitment and parenthood. That here it’s the girl who’s leery of love, rather than the boy, in itself makes a pleasant change. Meanwhile, her condition also slyly connotes all the visceral, corporeal aspects of being a woman — menstruation, hormone problems and the like — that men have to learn to deal with when they achieve real intimacy.
While clearly completed on a tight budget, all the craft contributions are professional, sound and smooth, although Jimmy LaValle’s score, deploying sweet minor-key melancholia and growling electronic menace by turns, is particularly deserving of praise.
Production companies: A Moorhead & Benson, XYZ Films, 9.99 Films production
Cast: Lou Taylor Pucci, Nadia Hilker, Francesco Carnelutti, Jeremy Gardner, Vinny Curran, Nick Nevern, Shane Brady, Chris Palko, Holly Hawkins
Directors:Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead
Screenwriter: Justin Benson
Producers: David Lawson, Aaron Moorhead, Justin Benson, Luca Legnani
Executive producers: Nate Bolotin, Aram Tertzakian, Todd Brown, Nick Spicer
Cinematographer: Aaron Moorhead
Production designer: Fabrizio d’ Arpino
Costume designer: Veronica Lopez
Editors: Michael Felker, Aaron Moorhead, Justin Benson
Composer: Jimmy LaValle
Casting: Ornella Morsilli
Sales: XYZ Films
No rating, 109 minutes