Spring – LFF Review

Spring

What starts off as a grim tale in small town America quickly moves into a European romance before slowly evolving into a monster movie. It does all this with a healthy dose of humour and a sincere amount of heart. Spring is unlike anything I’ve seen before and is certainly not the film I was expecting from the opening scene.

The film opens on Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci) losing his final family member, his mother, before getting drunk in a bar and beating up a local thug. With the possibility of being sued or attacked Evan does what any self-respecting film character would do; he flees the country. In Italy he stays in hostels before quickly finding work on a farm and falling for the charms of local girl Louise (Nadia Hilker). Despite initially rebuffing Evan’s advances Louise slowly falls for the foreigner over the course of a week and the independent life she leads is threatened by this change.

Spring 2

So far we have the plot of a wannabe Richard Linklater film. Spring certainly lives up to the comparison with a witty script from Justin Benson and impressively controlled direction from Benson and Aaron Moorhead which includes some admirable camerawork. Where this film swerves away from the emotional drama it sets up is in the sudden introduction of a decidedly fantastical element that puts Evan’s life at risk and threatens to end their budding romance before it can begin. What that element is I am hesitant to reveal but suffice it to say that Evan sees a much less attractive side to Louise and must prove his loyalty by dealing with a peculiar genetic abnormality.

What makes Spring the enjoyable feature I experienced is the fact that it refuses to stick to a genre or conform to any conventions. After starting with an American indie aesthetic it doesn’t feel jarring when the plot takes in fantasy/sci-fi elements as the directors make the plot fit their style and not the other way around. Having wild events take place in a grounded reality makes the unbelievable seem that much more believeable and allows the audience to swallow what they are being shown.

Spring is a romantic comedy sci-fi drama with a real sense of fun. I didn’t know what I was getting to when I trotted along to the screening and giving this film the element of surprise is highly recommended. Leave your scepticism at home and give this unique slice of cinema a try.

Spring is on limited release in UK cinemas.

BFI LFF 2014

Top 10 Road Trip Films (I Own)

For the next week and a half I will be roaming around the South West of England in a yellow VW Campervan called Barney embarking on A Very English Road Trip. To celebrate I’ve compiled a list of the top ten road trip movies I own on DVD. An odd criteria for a film list but these film lists are superficial at the best of times.

Away We Go
A surprisingly light-hearted film from Sam Mendes as a young couple visit friends and relatives while trying to find the right place to bring up their imminent baby. John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph are a convincing couple and provide the sanity amongst the crazy characters they visit. Maggie Gyllenhaal and Allison Janney are the two main highlights along their journey.

Catfish
The only documentary on this list, Catfish follows the burgeoning online romance between Yaniv Schulman and the sister of a young artist he has been emailing. After some suspicious events Yaniv and his friends travel to the mystery girl’s house and uncover something they had never expected. There is debate about this documentary’s authenticity, either way it makes for a gripping watch.

The Darjeeling Limited
Wes Anderson takes his signature style on the road, or rather on the track, as three brothers travel through India by train, looking for their mother and getting to grips with the loss of their father. Jason Schwartzmann, Adrien Brody and Owen Wilson fit perfectly with Anderson’s tone as the three brothers and their journey is as much emotional as it is physical. Natalie Portman makes a brief, but revealing, appearance in the preceding short film.

The Go-Getter
The most indie film on the list unites Sundance darlings Lou Taylor Pucci, Zooey Deschanel and Jena Malone and brought together for the first time the she and him in She & Him. A young man has a quarter life crisis, steals a car and discovers love, and himself, on the road. A little bit twee to ever be successful, this is worth a watch if you are a fan of the cast, or just enjoy a gentle film about someone abandoning life and hitting the road.

Into the Wild
Speaking of a young man having a quarter life crisis and hitting the road… This time round the traveller is played by Emile Hirsch with a pre-Twilight Kristen Stewart providing the tempting romance he finds along the way. Stewart’s role is quite small though and this is the biggest single-hander of the lot, with Hirsch the only character present throughout. This was Sean Penn’s last work behind the camera and is proof he should do more.

Little Miss Sunshine
An amazing cast go travelling in a yellow VW Campervan (not called Barney) in order to get Abigail Breslin to her beauty pageant. Darkly funny and more than a little moving this road trip ends the way all movies should, with a big dance number. Kevin Bacon would be proud. The film is notable for featuring Steve Carell’s most subdued performance, and for inspiring the colour scheme of this very website.

O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Even the Coen Brothers have made a road trip film, theirs being an adaptation of Homer’s The Odyssey and starring George Clooney, John Turturro and Tim Blake Nelson as three escaped convicts searching for hidden treasure. Encountering all manner of characters and obstacles along the way this is the quintessential road trip film, and the only one to involve the KKK.

Transamerica
Any good road trip forces the film to shift focus from traditional plot or location and instead focus on the characters who are the only constant through the film, and their relationships. Few films utilise this better than Transamerica as Felicity Huffman’s pre-op transsexual meets her son for the first time as she ferries him across country under the guise of being a charity worker.

Wristcutters: A Love Story
While most of these films involve travelling across the United States, Wristcutters moves beyond the world of the living and instead is set in an afterlife reserved for people who commit suicide. Shortly after his death Patrick Fugit hears that his old girlfriend, Leslie Bibb, has also killed herself and so takes his room-mate and tries to find her. Along the way he encounters some charmingly rustic supernatural elements and Tom Waits, who also provides the soundtrack.

Zombieland
While everyone in Wristcutters is dead, most of the people our travellers come across in this film are the undead. Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson travel through the post-apocalyptic landscape in search of Twinkies and instead find Emma Stone (swoon), Abigail Breslin (road trip queen) and more zombies than you can shake a double barreled shotgun at. One of cinema’s greatest cameos is the icing on this zombie cake.

If there’s anything all these films have in common, it’s that the destination is not the important part, it’s the journey and characters that are key when the film has no other consistent element.

Beginners – Review

In 2003 Oliver Fields (Ewan McGregor) loses his father (Christopher Plummer), gains a Jack Russell and falls in love with a French actress called Anna (Mélanie Laurent). The story of Anna and Oliver’s burgeoning romance, and Oliver grieving, is sprinkled throughout with scenes from Oliver’s childhood with his mother and the final few months of his father’s life as he is diagnosed with cancer and comes out of the closet as a gay man.

It would be easy to call out Beginners for being overly twee, the Manic Pixie Dream Girl is fully present, Mike Mills takes on an occasionally stylised directing style and the dog has subtitles, but in truth the film comes off as charming rather than quirky. My worries than the varies story threads would be completely separate, and the love story merely a tacked on extra, we unfounded.

Through seeing Oliver’s childhood with a dissatisfied mother and his joy at seeing his terminally ill but newly reborn father’s joyful final months, we understand everything affecting his relationship with Anna. We can see what is holding him back and pushing him forward without it ever being said in dull dialogue, though perhaps the same cannot be said for Anna.

The three leads, McGregor, Plummer and Laurent, give equally layered and subtle performances but are all overshadowed by the greatest Jack Russell ever. There’s a special joy to be found in small dogs with faces resembling old men.

Beginners isn’t going to blow your mind but is a small film with a lot of charm.

100 points if you spot Lou Taylor Pucci’s cameo.