Bearing the subtitle “Love is a monster,” the movie poster for Spring boasts a color scheme like a sunset, and an overlay of the faces of two lovers. If you ignore the tentacles and claws rising up against the silhouette of the woman central to the poster, this could almost stand in for another goddamn Nicholas Sparks movie. Thankfully, there’s far more complexity, meat, and… tentacles to it than that.
- This movie is from: USA
- Language: English with a smattering of subtitled Italian
- Released: March 20, 2015 (USA)
- I watched it: at the Alamo Drafthouse in Houston
- Genre: Horror romance with a perhaps surprising whack of sci-fi
- IMDB Link: Spring
Spring begins with a young man named Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci) holding his mother’s hand as she dies of cancer. Now entirely alone in the world except for his constantly drunk and stoned friend, he departs for Italy on a whim. There, he meets Louise (Nadia Hilker), a mysterious young woman who tries to pull him for a one night stand and is shocked when he turns her down. A whirlwind romance ensues, with hints quickly given that Louise is far older than she seems and also not entirely human; her skin spontaneously rots in patches and she injects herself with some sort of drug from an unmarked bottle. Louise, it turns out, is an immortal monster of sorts. She’s actually two thousand years old, and every twenty years she finds a man, gets pregnant, and then uses the fetus to transform into a physically new person with half of the father’s genetic material, effectively giving birth to herself. If she falls in love, the biochemical changes in her body will cause her to carry the pregnancy normally, and she will lose her immortality—and she may have finally fallen in love.
The concept behind Spring is a twist of Beauty and the Beast, with Louise as the beast and Evan as the beauty who hopes to return her to human form with his love. At a deeper level, it’s a story about intimacy and the sorts of secrets people try to keep from each other during relationships out of fear, and what sort of secrets love can survive.
Surprisingly, Louise’s monstrous existence is at least given a veneer of science. In another reversal of normal roles, Louise is the one who insists that there is a scientific explanation for everything strange about her, denying the supernatural explanations that Evan offers several times. She even states that just because something isn’t yet understood, that doesn’t mean it’s magic. Considering she’s the immortal monster in the equation, this lends her assertions extra weight.
The film is beautifully shot and has a rich, warm color palette, far more romance than horror. The bulk of the film was also shot in Polignano a Mare, a location well suited to the tone of the film and used very effectively in its imagery. Both Pucci and Hilker have excellent chemistry on screen and do good work, though Hilker really steals the show with her quirky performance.
The only trope that Spring doesn’t tweak effectively as the story unfolds is the annoying tendency of romance to center around a woman giving up or losing something important to her life as a sacrifice on the altar of love. While Louise may be an immortal monster, she is not self-hating or particularly dissatisfied with her existence; her research into genetics isn’t to cure herself, but rather to achieve greater understanding of her life and allay the most problematic part of her transformation, in which she irrationally attacks and hurts those around her during the week leading up to her rebirth. While Evan arguably saves her from a lonely life that lacks intimacy and shows himself to be capable of loving her despite (or even because of) her darkest secrets, much attention at the end of the film is devoted to Louise fondly showing off parts of her long history and expressing her doubts about Evan’s urging that love is worth the loss of effective immortality. His assertion that every day is more beautiful when you know how few you have seems particularly thin as they stand in the ruins of Pompeii, the place where Louise was born to a mother who was immortal until she, too, fell in love.
This particular ending would seem less bothersome if it weren’t such a common trope in far less challenging romance films. Louise’s uncertainty about this change in her life has far less meaning because, as she repeats several times, she isn’t the one who chooses if she will no longer be immortal; it’s entirely dependent upon a shift in her brain chemistry that she can’t even be certain has happened. While the plot conclusion is perhaps less satisfying than it could have been, the final image of Louise and Evan in the ruins of Pompeii as the sun rises on the first day of spring is suitably gorgeous and a fitting ending for a complex and lush film.