Spring Forward

Reviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 02/15/07 22:17:52

"Sit back and listen."
4 stars (Worth A Look)

Words to describe “Spring Forward:” charming, honest, simple, sublime. The film feels less like a movie and more like a good book, the kind of character drama that makes for darn fine literature. And yet it’s an original work, not adapted form any novel but written and directed by Tom Gilroy, a man who, if this work is any indication, finds simple pleasure in the small things.

You see, “Spring Forward” is nothing more than the tale of two men who, over the course of one year, become friends. That’s it. We see them do little else but talk. The big stuff - life, love, death - all happens off screen; what we get is these two characters sharing with each other their life stories, their hopes, their memories, their philosophies. In talking, they grow closer, and we grow closer to them as well.

Liev Schreiber plays Paul, whom we learn from the very first scene is an ex-con. Just released from prison, he’s given a job working for the local Parks and Recreation Services department. His partner is Murphy (Ned Beatty), but you can call him Murph.

They spend most of their day driving around town, fixing whatever needs fixed, cleaning whatever needs cleaned. They discuss karma. They debate religion. They converse about whatever topic is in the book Paul’s reading at the time. They come across a variety of strangers. They share ideas.

The year passes, but the screenplay only gives us bits of the year - a day here, a day there. Gilroy has enough faith in us to know that we can fill in the gaps ourselves by following the conversation. In one scene, Paul and Murph are at a funeral. Whose? What happened? Gilroy never gives us any exposition, assuming we can figure it all out on our own. Of course, we do, and it’s so refreshing to see a movie leave so much up to the audience, allowing us to put the pieces together without hitting us over the head.

Gilroy also manages to avoid every predictable turn and clichéd pitfall. Will Paul’s jail time will become a source of conflict? Surprisingly, no. These characters don’t bother with melodramatics or unbelievable theatrics; they are, instead, just regular folks leading regular lives. (This, in turn, provides Beatty and Schreiber the opportunity to turn in two remarkable performances. Their Murph and Paul are so real, you wouldn’t doubt them if you saw them at the hardware store.)

I’d like to go on, but most of the joy of “Spring Forward” comes simply from listening in as these guys talk, and I’d hate to ruin the best revelations. Here’s a film that values good dialogue and complex characters over dramatic gimmicks and cheap action. “Spring Forward” will draw you in on its own quiet terms, and when its over, you’ll be glad you spent a few hours with these two most ordinary of men.

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