Evan (Evil Dead‘s Lou Taylor Pucci) is having a terrible time. After his father dies, he drops out of college to look after his ailing mother. The day she, too, dies, he gets in a fight at the bar in which he works…and promptly loses his job. With no prospects, no family and the police after him, he decides on a whim to go to rural Italy for a fresh start.
There, he hangs out with fellow tourists and finds a menial job working on an olive farm before meeting Julia (Nadia Hilker). Beautiful and mysterious, the genetics student who speaks more languages than she can count quickly entrances him. But as they draw closer together, things begin dying around her. Then…people.
Spring is co-directed by Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, the duo behind the intriguing Resolution (2012) and they bring their naturalistic style of shooting and dialogue to bear here, too. It suits what is essentially a troubled love story, with the film having a slow-burn structure but never becoming boring.
This is despite a lopsided narrative structure – the first half is a succession of start/stop encounters as characters turn up, then disappear for the rest of the movie. The central mystery of Julia’s nature is also resolved in one massive exposition speech.
The other major problem is in the relationship itself. While the conversations are breezy and natural, the blooming romance feeling very Linklater, the question remains why somebody as extraordinary as Julia would have any interest in a flat, naive specimen like Evan.
The lack of development on Evan’s side – he has little charm, charisma or the intellect to challenge someone of Julia’s credentials – means Spring risks falling into male wish-fulfillment territory. Where the unemployed, talentless loser can still score the exotic, cosmopolitan beauty.
Despite this and a fairly perfunctory third act, Spring is overall a success. Its atmosphere and core concept feel fresh and interest. The floating camerawork – including numerous steadicam and drone shots – is elegant and beautiful. The special effects are clever and not overdone, always having real punch when they do occur in all their gooey finery. The choice of the film to show them often in glimpses or only briefly succeeds in adding to their impact.
The performances are strong throughout, with Lou Taylor Pucci carrying the film seemingly effortlessly, despite being in virtually every scene. He keeps things subtle, letting circumstance inform his character rather than any overt displays of emotion, but is also capable of mining deep wells when the script calls for it.
A well-made, lyrical film suffering from a slightly below par script, Spring works best in its love story second half and in its effortless showcase of beautiful rural Italy. An interesting blend of Linklaterish relationships and Lovecraftian tentacles make for a worthwhile watch.
The DVD is loaded with extras, including deleted scenes, various comedic shorts and side-pieces, a VFX breakdown of a central shot and even the ‘proof of concept’ short the directors used to raise funding for the film initially.
An extensive “making of” forms the backbone of the special features on display. This hour-plus long piece includes not only loads of footage from set, but follows the entire filmmaking process from selling the script to casting to special effects, editing and scoring.
Overall, a really extensive package perhaps missing only a directors’ commentary track.