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David Aaron Baker,
As the seasons change in a Connecticut town, two men of different age and backgrounds who work together outdoors for the local park system, share thoughts and feelings that gradually deepen into a relationship approaching father and son. Paul is just out of prison for armed robbery, assigned to work with Murph, a middle-aged vet whose grown son Bobby is dying. Paul is trying to control his temper and build a spiritual side based on reading. Murph is a down-to-earth Sancho Panza to Paul's more ethereal ideas. And Murphy seems to need forgiveness for mistakes as a dad. As Murphy's retirement approaches and winter sets in, the men talk and love blossoms. Written by
The incomparable Ned Beatty shines so brightly in this soft and simple on the surface buddy film that gets deeper and more meaningfully philosophical as the continued shared conversation about all aspects of life changes each man for the better. Kind of like a blue collar version of the '80's film, My Dinner With Andre.
The story was set in a city park where both men worked in park maintenance jobs, and their progressively more personal conversations while they worked(or sat around goofing off)helped them gain more and more trust in each other over time. All the work-related fence painting, leaf blowing, planting and other simple duties they did demonstrated well that what we all do in life is mostly the same small maintenance things over and over no matter how we might glorify or belittle them. That's most of life.....basic routine. And we are better off for it as it tends to "set us straight" and keep us on track, a point the film clearly intended to make.
Liv Schreiber was excellent as the ex-con workmate so very curious and perplexed about what makes life and people tick, and conveyed well an interesting and informed blue collar philosophy along with an almost desperate sincerity to find a way to set and keep his life straight after a criminal mistake sidetracked him and caused him to be distrustful of others and society in general. Ned's character had some tortured soul problems too as, for example, he had a son die from AIDs and he was still confused and very hurt that the good friends who knew his nice son as he grew up forgot that friendship and turned on him when they found he was gay.
In a climactic scene with a desperate young mother late in the film, a point was emphasized that we all can get very unrealistic and maybe even crazy at times about the importance of the unfortunate things that happen in our lives, but there is nothing better than human caring and benevolence to help us try to set it right. Jesus, Buddha and Mohammed would surely agree.
Spring Forward is the perfect title for filmmaker and writer Tom Gilroy's sincere film, as both men in this soul-nourishing story did spring forward as a result of their growing companionship and sharing and were ultimately better men for it. We should all be so lucky in life. And, all who see this film will be lucky that they saw it.
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