By Ben Buckingham (@dissolvedpet)
Ned Beatty is one of those actors who used to pop up all over the place, but rarely got the recognition he deserved.
It hasn’t exactly gotten better for him over the years. You might squeal piggy and never give a thought to Ned’s brave performance as one of the few male Hollywood rape victims. You may cry out that you’re not going to take it any more, and forget that Ned towered above any Satan with his networking skills and commanding presence. In the case of Spring Forward, there is no memorable quote or brash violence. There was also no release in Australia beyond a long forgotten MIFF screening.
It is a great shame for such a confident and beautiful film about the bond between two men.
Directed and written by Tom Gilroy, an actor of straight-to-DVD and TV, it is a skilful, elegant film about a developing friendship over 12 months. Curiously, it was filmed chronologically over the course of an actual year and is divided loosely into four season-bound segments. Spring Forward captures a rhythm of life that is too often missing from dramatic works.
It is, for the most part, a two-hander, Murph (Ned Beatty) and Paul (Liev Schreiber, another actor who deserves more attention) as they live their lives. These men are brought together by a job, working for the Parks and Recreation Department in Connecticut. Murph has been doing it for a while. He has seen many a season come and go, calmly watching the ups and downs of the world pass by. Paul has just been released from prison after serving time for armed robbery; he has had it hard, that he wants to turn his life around.
The basic plot description and the trailer set the wheels of groaning into motion. Your automatic schmaltz deflectors go into action. But this isn’t that film.
There are very few big dramatic scenes and this is no melodrama. Instead, their lives mirror the leaves in the parks under their stead, gradually turning from lush green to vibrant orange and then back again. Despite the stillness, change is ever present. It is a film of precise and empathic performances, with slowly shifting moments of possibility interjecting from outside. While it is a small-scale film, it never feels slight. These two men are full and alive. There is melancholy and joy, and it is a simple, beautiful pleasure to accompany them on this year of their lives.
Due to the ridiculous classification system in America, this film was slapped with an R-17 (our equivalent MA15+) due to some swearing and one scene in which the two characters partake in a joint. There is nothing offensive here, nothing to corrupt or harm, but much to enjoy. It is available on a region 1 disc put out by MGM, very inexpensive. However, if you are in Melbourne, it will be screening at Screen Sect at Bar Open, 317 Brunswick St, on the 19th of December at 7:30pm. Cost is $5 for a monthly membership.
Seek Spring Forward out.