by Hope Madden
In 2012, Justin Benson and Aaron Moorehead made their filmmaking debut with the smashing Resolution – an intriguing rewrite of familiar “cabin in the woods” genre tropes. Surprising the audience even inside a well-worn genre by weaving into the story equal amounts of humdrum realism and bizarreness, the directorial duo offered a fresh and provocative flick. They took those same skills and showed off some new ones with their next effort, Spring.
Like Resolution, Spring looks and feels familiar but the filmmakers’ approach is anything but straightforward.
Evan (a spot-on Lou Taylor Pucci) has hit a rough patch. After nursing his ailing mother for two years, Evan finds himself in a bar fight just hours after her funeral. With grief dogging him and the cops looking to bring him in, he grabs his passport and heads to the first international location available: Italy.
It’s a wise set up, and an earnest Pucci delivers the tender, open performance the film requires. He’s matched by the mysterious Nadia Hilker as Louise, the beautiful stranger who captivates Evan.
The less said about the plot the better. Like Resolution, this film walks between two different genres, blending the two masterfully with a result that is not exactly horror. At its core, Spring is a love story that animates the fear of commitment in a way few others do.
On display here is a prowess behind the camera that Resolution did not predict. The look of the Mediterranean seaside is imposingly beautiful – appropriately enough. The film’s entire aesthetic animates the idea of the natural world’s overwhelming beauty and danger. It’s a vision that’s equally suited to a sweeping romance or a monster movie, and since you’ll have a hard time determining which of those labels best fits Spring, it’s a good look.
There are some missteps – a vulgar American tourist side plot rings very false after the authenticity of the balance of characters. Louise’s backstory sometimes feels slightly forced, and the film takes on an unusual comic flavor toward the end that doesn’t quite fit. But there is something so lovely about the way the filmmakers approach the dangerous but compelling glory of love and nature that sets this apart from other genre efforts and keeps you thinking.