Women have it tough. As a man, l will never understand all the changes a woman will go through in her lifetime. Their struggles are constant and as men, we often dismiss, negate, or simply forget that. Most of us try to be sensitive. We listen, and we attempt to communicate with varying results. In all clearness, we can be absolute jerks. With all those changes, a woman’s body can be a mystery to herself sometimes, too, and that can sometimes be scarier for the person living it.
I’ve seen a lot of body horror movies involving changes in the female body. Carrie and Ginger Snaps were about teenage girls’ hormonal changes. Teeth and Jennifer’s Body were all about the changes a woman experiences through sex. Grace and The Brood are about bodily changes after giving birth. Spring is a different type: it’s about how a woman’s body changes when she’s in love.
Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci) leaves for Italy after the bereavement of his mother lands him in a curious situation. Making friends and traveling down the coast, Evan meets the lovely Louise (Nadia Hilker). Flirtatious at first, Louise solicits Evan for a one-night stand. Evan, feeling a real connection, refuses and asks for a date instead. Louise is shocked. She is not the type of woman that has ever had to worry about being shot down. Louise takes off but the next morning a lovestruck Evan decides to stay in Italy, getting a job and a place to stay.
The initial connection between Evan and Louise is a delight to the viewer. Their banter and chemistry are realistic and fun to watch. Chemistry in any film can be difficult—in genre films it’s often non-existent. Evan gets his date with Louise and Louise gets her one-night stand, though something feels off when she doesn’t require Evan to wear protection.
Louise’s appearance the morning after is severely altered. Her hair is falling out, her skin is pale and grey, and during her would-be walk of shame she feasts on a cat. Evan wakes to find he’s alone in the morning and heads out to work, determined to see Louise again.
After a few dates together, the two begin to reveal their lives to each other. Although reserved at first, Evan spills his guts over his mother’s final days battling cancer, allowing Louise to let her guard down. Louise admits she uses contacts because she has heterochromia: two different colored eyes. Just like the woman they’ve seen in the art museum on dates.
Louise tries hiding so much from Evan because, as much as she doesn’t want to believe it, she is falling for him. The closer they become, the harder she tries to hide her condition, but as they become more intimate her condition worsens. Evan begins to notice. During a date, Louise runs away trying to conceal her oncoming transformation. An American tourist who mistakes Louise for a working-girl gets a real surprise from Louise in a lizard-like form. This event causes Louise to end things with Evan.
This is where I really have to hand it to directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead. They’ve delicately placed themselves in a female perspective and carefully plotted Louise’s changes as her love for Evan grows. They only ever have Lousie change after specific relationship rubrics, which is why those changes are all very different. The creature Louise becomes after the first night they have sex looks very different from the lizard-like creature we see in the scene leading up to her breakup with Evan.
Evan attempts to fight for their relationship, but Louise dismisses him. Louise believes she’s protecting him from whatever her body may change into next. For Louise, it’s very scary not knowing how to control her own body. Things get worse for Evan when immigration shows up to kick him out of the country for working illegally.
Destitute and having nowhere else to go, he heads to Louise’s. Evan hears a struggle going on from inside the flat. He opens the door as far as the inside chain allows. When he sees the blood, his fear rises. He breaks through her doors thinking Louise has been attacked and instead finds Louise going through a remarkably interesting transformation on the floor.
Louise appears as a half-octopus lying on the floor. Evan overcomes Louise’s visual aesthetic and plunges a fumbled syringe into her neck. Louise changes back and confesses her biggest secret: she’s 2,000 years old. She further divulges that she actually is the woman in all the art at the museum.
Every 20 years in spring, Louise gets herself pregnant and uses the embryonic cells to repair her form and remain young. The process takes its toll, though this time she’s having a harder time with it, and that is why she’s been transforming into various creatures.
These revelations help put all the pieces into place for the viewer. The relationship sees Louise change on the first night Evan and she have sex and again later in the alley when she admits she’s become pregnant. Then on the night she throws Evan out, we see her greatest change through the pain of her heartbreak. Louise tells Evan her final transformation will happen on the first sunrise of the summer equinox, one day away.
As Evan struggles to make sense of Louise, he calls home for a sense of gravity. When he realizes the empty life he left behind before coming to Italy, he appreciates all that he’s found with Louise. Hesitant of his decision but trying to understand, Evan continues his conversation with Louise. She explains that if she were to fall in love, her body would produce a hormone that would allow her to abandon her immortality.
Afraid of being hurt, Louise remarks she is not in love with Evan. He still asks her if they can spend her last 24 hours together. Louise tries to push Evan away, telling him she doesn’t want to hurt him, more afraid that he may not accept her. Evan, having already seen his mother’s final changes in her battle with cancer, is more afraid for this woman he’s come to love than she could ever imagine.
The final moments of Spring unfold with outstanding precision. Evan, holding Louise, waits with her as the sun rises on the summer solstice. He talks to her as her body noisily cracks. We hear the fear in his voice. Evan never budges as Louise makes her choice. A life of immortality or a life of love? Evan stays, and for Louise that makes all the difference in the world. Choosing love literally changes the world as a volcano erupts behind them. Neither of them is scared.
Changes are the central theme of Spring, but the character communication is what makes the movie work. As Louise gets Evan to open up, she begins trusting him more, letting her guard down, and ultimately revealing her secrets. We’re all guarded people with secrets and differentiating degrees of trust issues. This movie creates better characters by breaking through their walls and building a stronger understanding of this relationship’s plight.
This film is wholly original and lovingly implemented. The cinematography is captivating, the dialogue is fresh, and the actors’ chemistry is genuine. Their final 24 hours together are beautiful cinema reflecting the best parts of Linklater’s Before Trilogy, genuinely connecting you to the love felt between the characters.
There isn’t much that I can say is bad about Spring. The camera and lighting look a little washed out at times, but it doesn’t hurt the feel of the film. Evan appears oblivious on occasion, but it adds to his charm. I can admit that this movie wasn’t what I was expecting, and that wasn’t a bad thing for me. I will say that anyone going in thinking they’re going to see a blood-spattered monster film is likely not going to have a good time. What we have here is a beautiful love story with elements of horror.
Spring radiates with romance. It’s both intoxicating and enticing. Through our protagonists’ love story we’re reminded love requires understanding and patience. It’s probably a great date movie, However, my advice would be to try avoiding the question “Would you still love me if I were an octopus monster?”
Spring is now streaming on Shudder and is highly recommended.