ByBenjamin Marlatt, writer at

After losing his mother to cancer and then his job following a bar fight, Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci) heads off to Italy to get a much-needed break from the turmoil in his life. While on vacation, he meets beautiful and mysterious woman named Louise (Nadia Hilker), and what starts as a one-night stand turns into something more for him. But as Evan falls deeper for Nadia, she finds it more and more difficult to hide the dark secret she’s carrying.

Spring is one of those movies that’s hard to define and hard to discuss without spoiling things for you. The less you know going into this movie, the better. The best and most spoiler-free way I can describe it is imagine if the child of Richard Linklater and H. P. Lovecraft made a film; you’d get something along the lines of Spring.

Directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead (the former of whom wrote the screenplay) followup their debut film Resolution with this melding together of romance, sci-fi and horror genres in a dark but affectionate tale of love and loss. Although, as mentioned, this incorporates elements of sci-fi and horror, this is certainly not a film for everyone. Just like last year’s Under the Skin, Spring moves at a deliberate, slow-burn pace, keeping its attention on two engrossing character studies, Evan and Louise. Moments of genuine shock do occur within the film, but Benson and Moorhead never push them, instead biding their time before revealing Louise’s affliction. When it is finally revealed, these two characters are firmly established to a point where witnessing her troubling condition is truly horrifying.

Though micro-budget restraints forced them to go the minimalism approach with Resolution, the success on the indie circuit and eventual cult fanbase that followed allows them to go a little grander for Spring, especially from a visual standpoint as Moorhead’s cinematography takes full advantage of the gorgeous Italian landscape. Not that Benson and Moorhead got thrown a Transformers sized budget, or even a quarter of that, but they’re still able to up the scale from their debut, and deliver some well-made effects. That they’re used sparingly gives them an extra punch.

Both Lou Taylor Pucci and Nadia Hilker give terrific performances, and bring their relationship to life in ways that liven things up more than anything else within the film. It’s their chemistry together and their believable romance, one that isn’t forced out of the gate and takes its time to grow, that add weight to the Lovecraftian elements (bonus points also go to Benson for giving Evan the smarts to be a bit suspicious when Louise immediately wants to hookup during their first meet). Playing the impulsive and desperate Evan, Pucci (last seen in 2013’s Evil Dead remake) avoids turning him into a unlikeably whiny stereotype, conveying a young man that’s lost, confused, and naive in a slightly endearing way that ably draws sympathy from the viewers. The fetching Nadia Hilker has a hypnotic presence that radiates whenever she appears onscreen, and does so without overplaying the sultriness of her character. It’s a no-brainer as to why Evan is completely smitten the moment he meets her, but the more we get to know Louise, and the more her troubling secret is revealed bit by bit, the more her character turns vulnerable and tragic. Hilker nails the role wonderfully, bringing out of Louise both beauty and pain.

Of course, there is an explanation for everything that transpires throughout the film, and that there is really the one misstep Benson and Moorhead make. Lack of ambition can’t be faulted here in any way, and it is a fascinating explanation (that’s made all the more impressive by the long, continuous shot it takes place in), but one that could’ve been a little less exposition-heavy. Being that the conversations and the honest, natural connection between Pucci and Hilker are the highlights of this film, you just wish all the expository talk could’ve been as stripped down and natural.

Yet that’s only a small gripe within a film that has much more going for it than against it, and once everything’s been explained, the film moves on from that brief speed bump with a final 10-15 minutes that pack tension, but are also quite emotional, avoiding the “bigger is better” third-act cliche that more often than not derails similar genre films.

It’s not often that romance, sci-fi and horror come together as effectively as they do here in Spring. Directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead have crafted a fully ambitious yet pleasantly intimate film that tackles each of its genre elements with the same level of earnestness, all of which are anchored by two fantastic lead performances from Lou Taylor Pucci and Nadia Hilker. It’s foolish of me to say the strange and fantastical atmosphere will work for everyone; it won’t. But those looking for a movie that doesn’t stay confined to the tropes and trappings of its own genre(s) may find what they’re looking for here.

I give Spring an A- (★★★½).

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