DreadWorld Review: Spring (2014/15)

I don't think I ever posted a review for Justin Benson and Aaron Moorheads debut feature Resolution (checks the search engine on DreadWorld.com...nope), but if I had I would have been a fan of the script, particularly the interplay between the two main characters. It felt like their relationship was grounded in the realities of addiction and that Benson, as the writer of the film, had a firm reality on the way people actually interacted with each other. It's something that you would think would be rather important to a film, but it seems capturing the way folks really talk is the hardest thing for a screen writer to do.

If I were to continue with a review of Resolution, while I was a fan of the dialogue and relationships, the ambiguous ending left me feeling a little unfulfilled. Overall, the film was certainly a success and one I would recommend. I bring it up the positives and the negatives of Resolution only because those same praises and criticisms can be levied against Benson and Moorheads second full length feature, Spring.

To say Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci) is down on his luck would be an understatement. In the opening minutes of the film his mother dies. Post-funeral he tries to get his drink on with his best friend only to find himself involved in an altercation that not only gets him fired from his job, but also causes him to fuck up his hand pretty bad. After his sympathy fuck rejects him and the cops show up at his door, Evan decides he needs a change of scenery. He calls a travel agent and asks for a ticket to anywhere.

Anywhere in this case, happens to be Italy. Evan starts in Rome, but soon hooks up with a couple of hard partying British tourists who convince him to travel to some of the more rural areas in Italy. It's in one of these small rural towns that Evan meets Louise (Nadia Hilker), an exotic brunette who is wrapped in mystery. Still, for Evan there is something about her that piques his interest. He abandons his British friends, takes a job on a farm, and devotes himself to getting to know Louise. Only the mystery surrounding Louise is a little more complicated than just a girl playing hard to get. Evan is forced to decide if this connection that he feels with this stranger is worth all the complications.

The first thing you notice about Spring is that it borrows heavily from Richard Linklaters epic "Before" romance trilogy. While Linklaters trilogy is a strict romantic drama, Benson and Moorhead take the tropes from those films ad give them a supernatural twist. Not only is there the tragic feeling like Evan and Louise, two people who clearly belong together, won't have the time they deserve. But now there is a danger to the relationship - at least when it comes to Evans safety. Like I said above, and like in the Linklater films, the relationship between the two main characters is one of the most natural things I've seen in a long time. it's easy to see how these people could fall for each other in only five days.

The other thing that stands out in Spring is the way Benson and Moorhead stretch the budget. If you need an example of how to use a location to make your film feel more epic, then Spring is the film you should reach for. The film is gorgeous and the settings make the film look like may with dare I say (I thin I do) a hundred times the budget. In contrast to the way Darren Lynn Bousman failed to use Barcelona to it's full potential in 11/11/11 (review HERE), Benson and Moorhead make the Italian coast look spectacular in turn giving their film a big budget feel.

While the film certainly benefits from it's location and from Bensons deft ear for dialogue, it's plagued by some of the same things that that plagued Resolution, namely it gets bogged down in its third act. Where as Resolution made it a point to keep explanations vague, Spring tries to out of its way to try and explain exactly once going on - even if Benson and Moorhead aren't quite sure themselves. The film builds towards a third act that just kind of limps along as we are force fed explanations as to what it happening with Louise. While the resolution of the film - which is again kept a little open to interpretation, is certainly satisfying, it feels like a chore to get there.

Some stumbles in the third act shouldn't discourage you from seeing Spring. It is well written, expertly directed, and has wonderful performances from it's two leads. It may fall a little short for those of you expecting blood and gore, there is not much here. It's more about the relationships than rivers of blood in Spring, but it's certainly worth it. Expect Spring to pop up on many year end best lists, it certainly deserves to be there.

**** 1/2 Stars out of *****

That's it for me. As always, thanks for reading and "enjoy every sandwich."

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