Monday, December 14, 2015

Seasons Greetings

As anyone who reads this site should know, nothing pleases me more than discovering new filmmakers with original takes on the genre. The team of Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead impressed me for a lot of reasons with their festival favorite Resolution. The film (which you can find streaming on Instant Watch) took a typical cabin-in-the-woods setup and approached it from a different angle, keeping such a strong focus on it all by centering the film on a pleasant, normal lead. It wasn't a perfect film, but it was fresh and moving.

Their followup feature, Spring, has been getting a lot more press and is now available on Amazon Prime. 

Let's do this. 

Quick Plot: Evan (the very natural Lou Taylor Pucci from the wonderfully underrated Carriers) is a nice but aimless twentysomething whose life goes into a tailspin following the death of his mother. With no job, a possible arrest warrant for a bar fight, and a best friend who spends the majority of his time so inebriated that he barely knows Evan is alive, our unhappy young man heads to Italy for a break.

After a few rounds of drunken nights out with fellow hostel travelers, Evan takes a job helping out an elderly farmer in a small and picturesque seaside town. He also meets a beautiful, well-traveled medical student named Louise (Nadia Hilker) and instantly falls in love, unprotected sex style.

Everything is all wine and espresso until Louise reveals (first to the audience) a very strange, rather gross secret. I won't spoil the details, but let's just say it's a little Cat People, a little American Werewolf, and a whole lot of skin peeling. 

Once you get past the very stonercentric opening (which borders on dangerous levels of hip and beard length), Spring opens up into a rather sweet love story. Pucci and Hilker have a strong chemistry and find the lightness in their (maybe) doomed romance, while the actual design of Louise’s condition feels quite new and surprising. The final act lingers a tad too long, but there’s something fresh in how Benson and Moorhead let their characters take time in determining their end. 

High Points
As I said with Resolution, directors Benson and Moorhead seem to have an outstanding talent when it comes to getting incredibly likable, low-key performances from very natural actors. Both Pucci and Hilker are both fantastic and do an incredible job of grounding the story in a very real relationship

Low Points
I deduct at least 10 points from any film that dares to blind me with a closeup of a caterpillar

Much has been discussed about Spring's use of drone footage camerawork. While it didn't bother me, I did find that the film overall seemed to lack a real visual style. Considering Spring is filmed in this gorgeous Italian landscape, it feels as though the photography should be...well, prettier? Whether that has anything to do with the new style, I'm not sure

Lessons Learned
The real problem with Americans is that they don't play rugby

Fear of the unknown has produced some very pretty stuff

It only takes a few days to become fairly conversational in Italian

By the time it's over, Spring feels a tad overlong, but remains a fresh, well-told tale that takes a simple story and treats it with such affection and care. Benson and Moorhead continue to be one of the most promising filmmaking teams in the genre, and it will be exciting to see them continue to grow. You can find Spring streaming at Amazon Prime. It's certainly worth a gander. 

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