My TIFF experience (well, genre anyway) began this year with Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead's newest film Spring.
After the loss of his mother and job, Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci) flees to Italy where he falls in love with a local woman named Louise (Nadia Hilker) who may not be all that she appears.
A few years ago, Benson & Moorhead burst onto the scene with their highly-praised debut Resolution. It defied easy characterization, but it was clear they were full of fresh ideas. I'm glad to say that their first effort was no fluke, as this one is another accomplished tale. Whereas Resolution was essentially buddy comedy with horror elements, Spring is first and foremost a romance. The byline I've been hearing of “it's a genre version of Before Sunrise” is decidedly apt.
I was glad I knew very little about the film going in, and enjoyed letting it unfold organically. As with Resolution, its strength lies in the two leads and their immediate chemistry. Having way more to do in this film than his turn in last year's Evil Dead remake, Lou Taylor Pucci gives a wholly sincere portrayal of a man lost and on-the-run. Even more captivating is Nadia Hilker, as the mysterious Louise. She is breathtaking, speaking with an accent you can't quite place. What a find, guys! The exchanges between Pucci & Hilker were really engaging, playing off his lovestruck melancholy and her perpetual evasiveness in equal measure. The film is also buoyed by a strong supporting cast including Francesco Carneletti and Vinny Curran. I was also glad to see Jeremy Gardner in there, as well. After his effort The Battery last year, he too is an important up-and-comer, so it's good to see these three guys collaborating.
As far as storytelling goes, Benson & Moorhead are still on their game. They do their best to throw you off the scent, giving you many ideas about Louise's secret, before the big reveal. What follows is some interesting lore and, sadly all too brief, discussions about science vs. supernatural.
Visually, Spring is a huge leap forward for these filmmakers. Shooting in a small Italian village, the locale sings with historical beauty. Whether it be wave-swept cliffs, secluded caves or the outer-lying orchards, almost every frame is a marvel.
|Star Nadia Hilker & Directors Aaron Moorhead & Justin Benson.|
Spring is a solid effort that reinforces Benson & Moorhead as fresh new voices with a talent for injecting new life into oft-trodden genres.
*Q&A photo courtesy Kurt Halfyard.