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“Spring” is an Enchanting Reminder of Human Transience

Images of blossoming and withering flowers
permeate Spring_web-FINALSpring (2014), an enchanting new film from Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, the pair responsible for 2012’s genre-bending Resolution. It’s a painful reminder that all living things–no matter how beautiful–have a finite time on earth; we should take time to enjoy the wonder of life despite the constant anxiety about losing it. The cruelty of Mother Nature plays a crucial role in the film, an unconventional monster movie aimed at anyone who’s ever been hopelessly in love. Even if tumultuous relationships are outside of the viewer’s scope of experience, one can still appreciate the other permutations of love that appear throughout the film; parental love, meaningful friendship, or affection for an animal companion are all part of the story’s dynamic. Each permutation is portrayed just as intensely as the blossoming relationship shared between the film’s two leads.

Lou Taylor Pucci and Nadia Hilker in Spring [click to enlarge]

Lou Taylor Pucci and Nadia Hilker in Spring [click to enlarge]

After losing his mother to cancer, Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci) finds his life in limbo; without her, he’s flailing, directionless, and alone. He decides a trip to Italy is the best remedy, thus taking his first real opportunity to attain control over his ordinarily cautious life. He finds clarity on Italy’s breathtaking coastline, meets a few partying travel companions, and earns his keep with an olive farmer named Angelo (Francesco Carnelutti). It isn’t until an encounter with Louise (Nadia Hilker), however, that the larger picture of his life comes into focus. He falls head-over-heels for her charm, mystique, and worldly beauty, and a fling sparks up based on an intense mutual attraction. Together they experience the typical pains associated with new love, the ebbs and flows that teeter between lust and longing. Evan decides he wants to spend his life with Louise, but there’s one immense problem: Louise harbors a monstrous secret and her biological clock is ticking towards certain doom.

Nadia Hilker in Spring [click to enlarge]

Nadia Hilker in Spring [click to enlarge]

On the surface, Spring can claim kinship to sexualized monster movies like Species (1995) and Splice (2009), especially in their depictions of female creatures confronting complex emotions with human counterparts. One could argue that more appropriate cinematic touchstones are John Landis’ sympathetic werewolf film An American Werewolf in London (1981), the deeply philosophical, conversational work of Richard Linklater (especially Before Sunset [2004]), and even Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire (1987) in which a relationship is dependent on the choice of an inhuman partner to join the human world. In the latter selection of films, love challenges the doubt, insecurity, and regret responsible for corrupting human connection.

Before you start feeling warm and fuzzy about Spring, another effective motif employed in the film is that of predatory animals, all of which are seen stalking and eating prey. Just as flowers make us appreciate life, this series of images reminds us of life’s double-edged sword where death is very much a component (or companion). Spring excels at offering a unique and vicious beast whose evolving state retains characteristics of many predatory animals from the evolutionary ladder, kept at bay only by drugs concocted by Louise. In a refreshing twist, the monster’s sudden attacks often leave the assailant feeling deep regret, yet the call of primordial nature is impossible to ignore. The creature effectively serves as a metaphor for the glorious highs and devastating lows associated with matters of the heart.

Spring-ALLEY

Lou Taylor Pucci and Nadia Hilker in Spring [click to enlarge]

 Watching Spring is a dizzying experience; it’s an immersive journey the viewer takes with two multidimensional characters who share palpable chemistry. Benson’s screenplay is whip-smart, imbued with pathos and balanced with clever dialogue that, in the wrong hands, might have undermined the raw emotions being exposed, but here provides moments of welcome relief. Benson’s writing instincts are remarkable as the offbeat humor accentuates rather than distracts, and the film achieves moments of sublime euphoria along with melancholy. Everything feels so passionately constructed that one wonders if some of the pages weren’t borrowed from Benson’s own life experiences, but perhaps with less tentacles and razor-sharp teeth. Of course, all this could have failed without the exceptional performances of its thespian anchors Pucci and Hilker, both of whom give themselves completely to the story.

SPRING-BATH

Nadia Hilker in Spring [click to enlarge]

Moorhead’s visual contributions soar over the small coastal town with amazing aerial shots, moving as if an omnipresent force is watching the story unfold. Alternately, moments of tension are shot in the claustrophobic confines of narrow alleyways, caves, and small apartments. The exotic coastal setting lends a wholly believable atmosphere, making it easy for the viewer to accept that an ancient creature survives in such an idyllic, hermetically-sealed environment, seemingly trapped in time. The visual effects team deserves special mention, utilizing light and shadow to create dream-like (and nightmarish) visions in meticulous detail, at once striking and terrifying.

SPRING-RITUAL

Nadia Hilker in Spring [click to enlarge]

In the sphere of monster movies, Benson’s and Moorhead’s Spring is a game-changer. It operates with precision at a junction where humanity intersects, and subsequently grapples with nature. At times, the film lulls viewers with warmth; at others, it strikes with cold-hearted fury, much as many have experienced in making a relationship work. Even if the creature was removed from the equation, Spring would still qualify as a dramatic success, though horror fans should embrace such a mature and thoughtful take on monster lore. It’s certainly the most heart-achingly romantic genre film since Tomas Alfredson’s Let the Right One In (2008). Until the final touching moment, we’re rooting for these star-crossed lovers the chance at everlasting happiness.

Check out Spring in select theaters, VOD & iTunes Now!

Images of blossoming and withering flowers permeate Spring (2014), an enchanting new film from Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, the pair responsible for 2012’s genre-bending Resolution. It's a painful reminder that all living things–no matter how beautiful–have a finite time on earth; we should take time to enjoy the wonder of life despite the constant anxiety about losing it. The cruelty of Mother Nature plays a crucial role in the film, an unconventional monster movie aimed at anyone who's ever been hopelessly in love. Even if tumultuous relationships are outside of the viewer’s scope of experience, one can still appreciate the…

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About Chris Hallock

Chris Hallock is a screenwriter and film programmer in the Boston area. He has contributed to VideoScope Magazine, The Boston Globe, Paracinema, Shadowland, ChiZine, and Planet Fury. He serves as a programmer for the Boston Underground Film Festival and the Massachusetts Independent Film Festival and is a former Co-Director of Programming for Etheria. He is currently writing a book on the horror genre for Midnight Marquee Press. His other passions are cats, drumming, and fiercely independent art.

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