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rare female film critic | by maryann johanson

spoiler alert: about the ending of Spring

springspoiler

[major spoilers for Spring; spoiler-free review here]

Spring is the story of an ordinary, uninteresting young man who somehow — we never know how — convinces an amazing, extraordinary woman to fall in love with him. This is, in many aspects, a tediously familiar story, one we’ve seen numerous times onscreen. But Spring is special in that it brings a new sci-fi-horror element to the story… one that makes it even more enraging that these male-ego-stroking romantic-wish-fulfillment stories usually are.

About halfway through the film, and after a few subtle hints that there is something strange about Louise (Nadia Hilker), we learn that she is an evolutionary anomaly: Every 20 years, she renews her body via a regeneration process that incorporates genetic contributions from a man. In effect, her new self — though retaining the form of a young adult — is the daughter of her old self and whatever dude she chose to accept some sperm from. But she retains all her memories and her personality. Louise is 2,000 years old but forever young.

The horror part comes in how, as the 20-year-cycle is ending, signaling that it’s time to renew, her body starts to briefly erupt into other life forms from humanity’s evolutionary past, so there are temporary tentacles and so on. She explains this to Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci), the guy she sleeps with in order to gather sperm to facilitate the renewal process. He has convinced himself that even though he and Louise have only known each other for a few days, she is the love of his life. She scoffs, of course, but he keeps pestering her: Why can’t they be together after her regeneration? His pestering gets worse after he learns that she can turn off her superpower and live a normal life after one final renewal. All it requires is that she fall in love with him, because oxytocin, the so-called love hormone, will interfere with the process.

In an otherwise intriguing science-fiction concept, one that is at least tenable enough to allow for the suspension of disbelief during the course of the story, this bit about the oxytocin isn’t merely ridiculous: it’s a clear contrivance on the part of screenwriter Justin Benson to create some concrete proof of Louise’s falling-in-love with Evan. And to do so in a way that — more than any other regular-schmoe-snags-an-awesome-babe story has ever been able to do before — lets Evan know that he is so so so soooooo very special. (Which is what these sorts of movies are always about: no matter how unspecial a guy might think he is, he is most definitely worthy of an amazing girlfriend who appears to be completely out of his league.)

Louise’s final renewal and transformation into her new self is upon her, and right up until the very last moment, she is insisting to Evan that there’s no way she’s giving up eternity for him. (In return for her giving up eternity, he promises to give up smoking. Because those are totally on the same level.) Anyway, she just met him a week ago, and she’s not in love with him. She says this over and over, and it’s wholly plausible, because she has had a long, amazing life crammed with who knows what sorts of adventures (we get a few hints of the things she has done), and Evan is a nondescript nonentity. There is nothing there for her to fall in love with, at least not that the movie has shown us. And there’s this, too: she obviously has not been in love before in her 2,000-year-long life — if she had, her regeneration process would have been interrupted — and we’re supposed to believe that this Evan guy is the one to finally make it happen? Pul-lease.

Except, of course, that’s exactly what happens. For all her protestations, her transformation process is interrupted by love. She is mortal now. Because she is in love with Evan. For the first time in two millennia. So she was either consciously lying before about not being in love, which doesn’t make any sense. Or she was unconsciously lying, denying to herself that she was in love with Evan. Either is uncomfortably close to suggesting that women cannot be trusted to tell the truth about their emotions, or about what they want. Her mouth said no, but her body said yes.

Disgusting.

And I bet, after all that, Evan doesn’t even give up smoking.


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