In the aftermath of his mother’s death, Evan’s (Lou Taylor Pucci) life is in turmoil. Thanks to a heady cocktail of grief, unreliable friends and some unfortunate circumstance, Evan finds himself needing to skip town in a hurry. After befriending a couple of English backpackers, Evan’s travels land him in a small Italian town where he decides to stay on for a while, scoring a job with a friendly local farmer (Francesco Carnelutti) and becoming instantly taken with the mysterious Louise (Nadia Hilker). As we follow Evan and Louise’s burgeoning relationship around the narrow alleys and blind corners of the quaint old town, it soon becomes apparent that things are not all as they seem and Louise harbours a guarded secret.
Comparisons to Richard Linklater’s sublime Before Sunrise are apt, as Spring is a relationship ‘talk-y’ cast from the same mould, but as Even and Louise wander the streets getting to know each other better, there’s an underlying menace at hand. Spring mixes up the melodrama with a smattering of body horror for good measure.
Spring’s strengths lie firmly in its strong characterisation, and the performances of Pucci and Hilker. The dialogue-heavy approach makes their relationship both believable and something for the audience to invest in. Pucci is excellent as the put-upon Evan, finally finding something good has come his way after his life went down the gurgler. And Hilker is superb as the enigmatic, beguiling Louise. It is no stretch of the imagination to see Evan fall for her so quickly.
Furthermore, Spring is a good-looking film. Assisted by the natural wonder of the Italian scenery, we see sweeping aerial shots of the town and the beachside coves, almost topographical as they outline the coast from high vantage. As we begin to suspect things aren’t quite right, the idyllic town is shown to be decaying in the shadows, the camera lingering on rotting animal corpses and insects.
However, Spring is not without its problems. When we finally reach the denouement, it is delivered on the run. Intentionally rushed as events unfurl at pace, but it hinders our understanding. This is a fact that might well have occurred to the filmmakers, since we get a second expository scene shortly after, covering much of the same ground.
Spring could also have been better served with further expediency at the beginning and in the last third of the movie. Some of the earlier incidental character focus could have been swifter, since it doesn’t serve the story beyond placing Evan in the town. And while confident in its presentation, the story has a shaky foundation. When you finally figure out what’s going on and start to think it through, it doesn’t really add up as well as it thinks it does.
Despite its ambitions, Spring ultimately ends up being very light on the horror side of things, meaning it’s a bit of a stretch to even categorise it as such. The effects are enjoyably gloopy, but fans of the genre are likely to be unsatisfied with what’s on offer. Fans of a cryptic love story should find much more to enjoy, and in that regard Spring certainly hits the spot.
Spring should certainly be applauded for having a bash at a genre mash-up, with an interesting concept and an emphasis on character rather than scares. If it doesn’t quite deliver at times, it’s not through lack of trying, leaving us with a nevertheless intriguing monster love story.
THE REEL SCORE: 7/10