Director – François Ozon – 2014 – France – Cert. 15 – 108m
On BFI Player subscription from Monday, May 17th 2021
UK release date 22/05/2015
Directors – Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead – 2014 – US – Cert. 15 – 109m
UK release date 22/05/2015
Both these films can easily be ruined by spoilers, so be wary of reading reviews or cinema blurb or even watching trailers before you see them. That said, the following is spoiler free. Now read on.
The married, female protagonist of French maverick Ozon’s The New Girlfriend – based on a book by Ruth Rendell who passed away last month – suffers serious emotional trauma then becomes involved with a man who is not all that he seems. The single, male protagonist of US indie Spring suffers serious emotional trauma then becomes involved with a woman who is not all that she seems. In both films, the question is: can their relationship survive?
The New Girlfriend‘s Claire (Anaïs Demoustier) is distraught when friend since childhood Laura (Isild Le Besco) dies leaving behind a husband David (Romain Duris) and child. Having promised to look after David should Laura die, she sets about doing so…and makes an unexpected discovery. Which completely skews everything that follows.
Spring‘s Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci) witnesses the death of his bedridden mother. Distraught, he heads to the local bar, gets into drunken fight which ends up with his leaving the US to evade the police. He heads to Italy where he meets a bunch of Brit backpackers and indulges in more binge drinking, but everything changes when he meets and falls for the mysterious Louise (Nadia Hilker)… (This reviewer confesses that by this point – about ten minutes into the film – he wasn’t feeling much sympathy for the character – or, indeed, liking the film very much at all – but Evan’s subsequent relationship with Louise had him hooked.)
Both films hinge on plot revelations which will ruin them if you know what they are in advance. The tantalising trailer for The New Girlfriend is smart enough to not give its game away. You’re advised however to steer clear of the so-called trailer #1 for Spring which gives some elements of its revelation away. The trailer #2 for Spring below is spoiler-free.
It’s fair to describe both films as romantic dramas. As Claire and David in The New Girlfriend embark on their unlikely relationship, the viewer is caught up with where they’re going (and whether or not they’ll get there) and, in the process, confronted with the complex and difficult issues about human sexuality underlying the piece.
In a not dissimilar fashion, as a romance Spring is utterly compelling. It’s also a film about landscape: once the narrative reaches Italy, the visuals alternate between ravishing, sun‑drenched days and cool, darker nights in coastal town and surrounding countryside. There’s a case for labelling Spring a horror movie and while it’s true it contains elements that will appeal to a horror audience, it might equally leave some members of that audience dissatisfied.
Both films, in their different ways, deal with transgressive sexual conditions and provide much material for discussion afterwards. Both are thoroughly compelling love stories. And once each one gets going, both are blessed with two incredible lead performances without which neither film would really work.
All of which may appear somewhat coy, as if I’m skirting round the edges of these two extraordinary, in some ways similar and in some ways very different films. Which, I readily admit, I am doing. If that intrigues you and tempts you into the cinema to see one or other film – or better still both – then this review will have done its job. Hopefully without ruining either film for you.
Reviewed for Third Way.
The New Girlfriend is on BFI Player subscription from Monday, May 17th 2021.
Trailer (The New Girlfriend):
Trailer #2 (Spring) because Trailer #1 has spoilers: