Spring (2014)

“I’d still like to grab coffee or something, sometime. Because I think you’re the most attractive person I’ve ever seen. But that doesn’t outweigh that you might be a mental patient and I gotta make sure that you’re the kind of crazy I can deal with. “

This is a truly remarkable film.

But then, I expected that.

After all, I’ve seen Moorhead and Bensen’s other two films…

Now, for those of you who haven’t seen either Resolution (2012) or The Endless (2017), Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson are the writer/directors (and occasional actors as well) behind three excellent science fiction, horror and fantasy films that fail to fit neatly into anyone’s idea of what a science fiction, horror or fantasy film should be.  They’ve also drawn an incredible amount of praise since Resolution became a breakout festival hit.

Their second film, Spring, drew as much praise as their first — or perhaps even more — and fully deserves it.

A young man, Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci), devastated by him mother’s death and fleeing from retribution for the beating he gave a barroom bully, goes to Italy and meets a mysterious young woman…

Now, we get hints of something terrible about this young woman, some thoroughly gruesome effects, and lots of hints that there is more about here that we are not being told, but most of this film plays out as a gentle romance.

Nadia Hilker’s luminous beauty (as the enigmatic Louise) really shines here, and does well in a complex and difficult role.  I had expected that Moorhead and Bensen would insert themselves into the story somewhere, but they didn’t this time.  However, Vinny Curran, who played the hapless junkie Chris in their other two films does appear, but as a different character this time.

Now, the grumpy science guy in me does have to note that the SF elements here are based on a theory which was definitively debunked in 1997 by researchers at St. George’s Hospital Medical School in London — although it had faced serious objections since the 1870s.   That hasn’t stopped anyone from believing in it — and it still appeared in science texts at least as late as the Nineties.

But I enjoyed the film too much to do more than grumble a bit — and I’ll admit they use their dubious science quite effectively — and in a marvelously icky way.

I particularly like the time spent on the town and its surroundings:   the Italian farmer Evan ends up working for steals the show whenever he shows up.  They’ve caught not only the real beauty of the place, but manage to give us an impression of how different — and more relaxed — this rather traditional town is.

They handle the romance itself beautifully — and more honestly than most modern romances do.  The choice Evan makes at the end is not simple — and may even be dangerous.  But it does reflect real love.

My initial impression was that the ending was deliberately ambiguous, but instead it is very clear:  it requires a little thought to understand the implications of that final shot, but the film couldn’t have had a more perfect ending.

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