SPRING | 2014 | An HONORable Mention
Starring: Lou Taylor Pucci & Nadia Hilker
Written by: Justin Benson
Directed by: Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead
Production Companies: Rustic Films & XYZ Films
Distribution: Drafthouse Films
THE SPOILER FREE REVIEW
Spring is a perfect example of what indie films should strive to be. It was smart, took risks, and dealt with a real human issue mixed with something unexpected and original. I loved it.
I was not prepared for the earnestness that this film brought to the genre, mixing romance, coming of age and a monster movie is a feat, and somehow this movie balanced those three very well. Everything from the performances to the voyeuristic handheld cinematography gave you a feeling of peeking in on a private moment. While most monster based sci-fi features see how big they can go, this one found out how contained they could make a monster movie. The romance in this film being used a vessel for great sci-fi worked on an indie scale that hasn't really been replicated by big productions in my opinion. The closest being Collossal but without the heart of it being a low budget indie Collossal felt like the rich kid slumming it, where as Spring uses every tool at it's disposal to it's maximum capacity.
Lou Taylor Pucci as Evan and Nadia Hilker as Louise take on the two lead roles. Lou running from the grief of losing both of his parents is searching for renewed purpose in life. Nadia, being older than Methuselah (like the great Lord Sydney Ling) being at least 2000 years old, she is searching for a one-night-stand to rejuvenate, but she finds more than she bargained for in Evan. Their performances were natural and constantly made me feel like I was watching a unique moment in time. Their playfulness and chemistry kept the story together for me.
Justin Benson who wrote the film and co-directed has a great sense of dark humor and it brings levity to the story while keeping it grounded. In films like this if the humor is too light it removes the steaks in the scene, if it's non-existent it makes the whole thing too heavy to enjoy, but mixing in the dark humor offsets both of those problems. Another interesting point to the script is that there is no bad guy. As an audience member you often crave a bad guy to root against, it includes you in the story as it unfolds. But even without giving me a villain, I still found myself rooting for this odd couple from the beginning.
Nudity is always a hot topic for these reviews as I often get on a soapbox to discuss the difference between justified nudity and unjustified nudity and whether the film had the budget to pay the actresses properly. I don't know the Spring's budget so it's hard for me guess if Nadia Hilker and Augie Duke received an appropriate nudity pay bump. I will say it didn't feel like unjustified nudity to me because the shots were not designed around nudity, which may be the work of the cinematographer Aaron Moorhead who also co-directed.
There's a lot of good in this movie but if you were to twist my arm on what bothered me I would say the color grade. The color is really where I felt how independent this film was. The VFX weren't great but they took big risks which paid off for me, so I didn't care that the VFX weren't great. That and at the end of the day VFX are extra and don't make a film good or bad inherently.
I also wouldn't call this a horror film. While it has horror elements I'm pretty certain the distributors slap that word onto the box for the horror fan base to make sure they tap into their loyal audience. This film is at it's heart a romance and sci-fi.
To sum it all up, Spring is a solid sci-fi, well worth watching with a great story, performances and scope beyond most low budget indies. I can't believe it took me 8 years for this film to find me. Go watch it, tell your friends to watch it, support this indie like it deserves to be supported.
An HONORable Mention
review written by: Christopher James Cramer
This film was a recommendation of James Dunovan, a super talented, well rounded filmmaker and as such his recommendation was well worth the time. I do not know anyone that worked on this project and I was not paid for this review. Part of my new "Go find an indie you like and tell your friends about it" initiative. The title needs work.