Boy Meets Lizard Girl in 'Spring'


This is not a film for men who feel intimidated by women. Sufferers of gynophobia (the irrational fear of the fair sex) will find it scares them out of their wits. The main female protagonist of Spring is a mixture of sexpot, clever clogs and monster. She is a painfully direct Italian girl called Louise (Nadia Hilker). Her unlikely beau is the American bartender Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci). They are as mismatched as two people could be but still irrevocably drawn to each other by some cruel force, call it chemistry, or perhaps love.

The scenes before their strange amour fou are set in California. Evan's mother has just died, his professional life is going nowhere and after getting involved in a bar brawl he escapes to Europe. He picks a picturesque town on the coast of Apulia as his place of exile. Its decrepit charm combines well with the tale of romance and gothic horror about to unfold. When Evan first meets Louise in a seafront there is a sense of doom. Close-ups of crawling insects give the sense this will be no straightforward love story but more a film akin to Nicolas Roeg's Don't Look Now.

Within half a minute of getting to know Evan, Louise asks him to follow her home. For someone as cerebral as Evan, this comes as a shock. He can't quite fathom that the world's most beautiful girl (in his eyes, at least), has just propositioned him. As his confusion mounts, Spring spins out awkward dialogues between these two very different creatures. "I've got to make sure you're the crazy I can deal with," he says while she retorts: "You're making this so much more complicated than it has to be!" The conversation veers all over the place, neat little fireworks set off by director Justin Benson. The simple premise, of course, is that men are from Mars and women from Venus. With Spring's hero and heroine the contrast is as big as it gets, for Louise has a secret: she occasionally transforms into a wriggly creature vaguely reminiscent of a lizard.

Unfortunately, the movie wastes time trying to explain precisely why she undergoes these changes. Maybe it would have been better to follow Alfred Hitchcock's advice. The master director coined the word "MacGuffin" for the device that motivates a narrative, believing a MacGuffin neither had to be plausible nor an explanation. If the story was good, nobody cared anyway. In Spring, though, the MacGuffin hijacks the film. Its "mystery" element is also its weakness.

To show how different these two people are, it might have sufficed to point out that Louise enjoys tearing out the hearts of live rabbits (as she does halfway through). Pairing this volcano of a woman up with a rather tame Californian male would have been an explosive enough combination in itself. Lou Taylor Pucci has the looks and ability of an actor going places and Hilker has the right on-screen presence to play a girl with a secret.

Many of the very best films revolve around the eternal problem of how John and Jill might get together. Spring offers a charming yet flawed take on this, eventually making the consoling case that men and women belong to the same species, though only just.

The definitive plot

Director Billy Wilder kept a notepad and pen by his bed so he could quickly write down film ideas he had in the early hours. One night he awoke with the plot to end all plots. He jotted it down. Next morning it read just: "Boy meets girl." Wilder later claimed the note inspired his classic film The Apartment. It is fundamentally true that people are interested in other people's love lives and Spring provides a poignant variation on that theme.

Boy Meets Lizard Girl in 'Spring' | Culture