Spring: Love in a Time of Squishy Things
I’m living the fantasy of some rich American home wife.
With these words Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci) sums up his Italian vacation. He recently lost his mom and as a way of coping he took off on an impromptu Italian vacation. He found a room at a charming farm run by an eclectic elderly man and has somehow gotten in the good graces of a beautiful and mysterious woman named Louise (Nadia Hilker).
Spring plays like Before Sunrise met An American Werewolf in London and spawned something like Species but totally different. It is an earthy film that plays with romance, love, loss and lots of squishy things. The critics have rallied around it (89% RT) and despite some shortcomings it is part of a recent low-budget horror revival. Backcountry, It Follows and Spring have proven to be genre lifters that take old ideas and make them original.
A neat example of where Spring veers from the horror path is in the meet cute. The two lock eyes, she is obviously out of his league and when he approaches she immediately invites him back to her apartment (think Species). He is caught off guard and begins to wonder whether she is trying to rob, kill or trick him. He declines the offer and instead tries to set up a coffee date. It is a neat moment that plays against type.
I don’t want to spoil anything about the film because it goes down very interesting avenues. I did wonder how an earnest guy like Evan wooed a woman like Louise. Spring veers into the land of the “male dream” and as the finale occurs you are skeptical instead of absorbed. In an interview with Variety co-director Justin Benson talked about his characters and had this to say:
When you watch ‘Jaws,’ if those dudes on the boat aren’t really interesting guys that you actually care about, then that shark doesn’t have as much impact.
The biggest problem is the “jaws” in Spring is Louise. She has a lived in backstory and is wonderfully performed by Nadia Hilker. She is sophisticated, beautiful and really cool. You don’t want her to be “caught” by Evan because his character is a blank slate. Evan is a good dude but is in no way an equal to Louise. If it had been Ethan Hawke in Before mode I could totally see his word trickery working on her.
The point may be moot as you sit and realize how sweet and hopeful Spring is. It may play like a male fantasy but at least it tries to be different. In an interview with the AV Club Benson and co-director Aaron Moorhead had this to say.
It felt like there was something sort of rebellious in the act of creating a new monster. Because for some reason it was something that so few people attempt to do now. Usually, when people want to tell a monster story, it’s a vampire, it’s a werewolf, or it’s an alien. It’s always got to be one of those things. That’s pretty much it, conceptually.
A lot can be ignored when young directors go out on a limb to tell a new story. I dug the walking and talking and the Italian vistas speak for themselves.
Spring is an ambitious and inventive horror hybrid that is deservedly making waves. I am stoked to see what the directors do next and I hope they can fine tune their talents and make the genre world a better place.