What begins as a contemplative slacker coming-of-age drama (with a touchingly pervading sense of loss and melancholy), Spring is one of those films which pulls a complete 360 somewhere mid-way through, and to reveal what happens runs the risk of spoiling the first-time viewing experience. Suffice to say, the flip is both disturbing and outlandish given the naturalistic nature established up until that point. Its divisive stuff and you’re either on board or you completely disengage once the film shows its true colours. This was undoubtedly a tricky proposition for the filmmaking duo Justin Benson and Aaron Scott Moorhead in balancing such a divergent tone, but they more or less carry it off with aplomb.

The sombre opening sees a young man named Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci) by his dying mother’s side as she succumbs to cancer. Losing his bar job in the aftermath, he decides to get away from it all and escapes to Italy for a bit of hostel/back-packing life. Initially hooking up with a couple of obnoxious Brits, his attention is caught by a mysterious female he casually encounters one evening, the attractive and captivating Louise (Nadia Hilker). As the two quickly grow close and develop both a strong cerebral and physical relationship, it’s soon clear that there’s something a little off about the girl Evan is rapidly falling in love with. It turns out, however, that not even he could conceive just how different she is from any other past female acquaintances.

Comparisons with Richard Linklater’s ‘Before’ trilogy are unavoidable, but the beauty of Spring is that it takes those engaging Delpy/Hawke walk and talk moments and juxtaposes them with a wonderfully weird and otherworldly atmosphere. In fact, all the exposition which emerges from the twist in the tale is brilliantly woven into the couple’s musings and explorations of each other as they embark on a fatalistic journey which makes up the latter part of the film. Like Linklater’s duo, Pucci and Hilker have a wonderful chemistry together which really helps to sell the offbeat premise. Pucci is hugely sympathetic and endearing, while his German co-star brings a fetchingly enigmatic quality to her character which makes it easy for the audience to believe Evan would persist and persevere when her ‘condition’ is revealed.

The film is a little overlong (the initial character set-up on US soil feels like a good ten minutes or so could have been exorcised from it) and sometimes the CGI, however impressive it is for a film of this scope, is jarring given the tone for filmmakers are striving for. These are minor quibbles however, as Spring is a unique and intelligent spin on the traditional indie romance, offering the kind of genre hybrid which is rarely toyed with in cinema, yet is wholly welcome when it lands as successfully as it does here.