Spring (2014) is a Lovecraftian rom-com courtesy of Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead (written by Benson), whose (plural) second feature, The Endless (2017), garnered quite a bit of attention last year. It’s the tale of Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci), an American in Italy who falls for Louise (Nadia Hilker), only to realize that she’s a Manic Pixie Nightmare Girl. If the unfolding mystery interests you at all, go see it first; conversely, if you’re more interested in the romance than the impending dread, then read on, my friend, read on.
I call this a Lovecraftian rom-com instead of the romantic horror because the backbone of the story is the relationship between the two leads, which numerous critics have noted is akin to Before Sunrise (1995) in its pacing and plotting, if not in its editing and dialogue. Make no mistake, as a straight romance, the relationship here is more realistic and thus more involving than in the first two Before films. But just as Sylvio (2017) treats its protagonist’s gorilla-ness as just another disability, Spring treats Louise’s “condition” as just another secret that could kill a budding romance, like the fact that Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s character in Enough Said (2013) is friends with her boyfriend’s (James Gandolfini) complaining ex-wife. That’s a pity, because Louise’s condition makes her more or less immortal, and that is so much more than your average speed-bump. In one scene, Evan asks her if through all her years she’s garnered any wisdom, and she gives a non-reply. Seeing as how the central conflict of the film has to do with her immortality, it would raise the stakes immeasurably if she tried to convey to him what living forever means exactly. Instead, the decision is delegated to biology, and the lack of a decision to make deflates the entire premise.
This depthlessness is due to Benson’s inability (in this film) to write profound dialogue. The final scene has Evan describing the beauty and meaning that finitude can bring—I know he’s supposed to be a naively earnest guy, but his halting, meditative delivery has no substantial monologue to back it up. The lines try so hard that I feel for them. This limitation of the script could also be why every guy in the film besides Evan (and there are only two women with speaking roles) reeks of sexism, of either the misogynistic or put-them-on-a-pedestal kind. Evan is fully rounded, Louise less so.