Director – David S. Jackson, Screenplay – David S. Jackson, Kathleen Rowell & J.B. White, Based on the Novel by Clifford Irving, Producer – Jim Chory, Photography – Gord Verheul, Music – Philip Giffin, Special Effects Supervisor – Al Benjamin, Production Design – Jim Cordeiro. Production Company – NBC Studios, Inc./A Bonnie Raskin Production
Kyle MacLachlan (Dennis Conway), Alison Eastwood (Dr Sophie Weston), Joseph Cross (Nick Conway), George Eads (Gus), Aaron Pearl (Josh), Zachary Ansley (Robert Lovell/Woodrow Lovell), Andrew Francis (Dylan McLean), Kendall Cross (Megan O’Hare), April Telek (Emma Baker), Deni Doloney (Molly Lovell), Robert Moloney (Caleb Dunn), Ronin (Mayor Watanabe), Byron Lucas (Jack Pendergast), John Destry (Joe Tichenor)
Dennis Conway and his son Nick are travelling along a remote road in an RV when they stop to aid a couple whose car has run off the road. Afterwards they realise that the couple have left behind a bag and drive to Springville, the nearby town the couple said they came from, to return it. Low on gas, they are forced to spend the night. In the morning, Nick is hit by logs falling off the back of a truck and has to be hospitalised with a broken leg. At the hospital, Dennis is attracted to Nick’s doctor Sophie Weston. There are also sinister things happening around the town. A deputy tracks down the couple that Dennis met and kills them, while the townspeople hold a ceremony where they drown one of their number in a fountain. Gradually, Dennis comes to piece together the town’s secret – that the town contains a fountain of youth and that most of the townspeople are nearly a hundred years old.
The Spring is a made-for-tv movie about the Fountain of Youth. The film seems to hold promise at the outset – it is slickly made and features the handsome and always likeable Kyle MacLachlan in the lead. As we settle in, the initial set-up offers a promisingly strange atmosphere where the archetypal smalltown has a calm friendliness that gradually hints at a more sinister undertow.
All of this holds interest through at least the first few commercial breaks. However, after a promising start, The Spring fails to sustain its premise. The advertising has let us know what the main surprise is – that there is a town of eternally young people – and the film is slow getting to this revelation. If that were the only problem, things would be fine. However, the film fails to credibly sustain a portrait of a town where the inhabitants are around 100 years old. There is no sense of any of the people living in the past – most people’s attitudes, interests and outlook on life are formed during the years they grow to adulthood and while many regularly adapt, you would expect a lot of things like attitudes and morality or hobbies, ways of dress and ways of speech to have stayed the same, yet everybody in the town seems to be living in the modern era. The townspeople are also unable to leave yet are up to date with modern technology, while Alison Eastwood’s doctor character has modern medical skills and must surely have left the town to attend medical school at some point. The other part that struck me as unconvincing was the romance between Kyle MacLachlan and Alison Eastwood. They seem exactly like a couple in their mid-thirties, which is around the age that both actors were in real life at the time The Spring was made. Yet if we are to buy the film’s premise, he is a man in his mid-to-late thirties dating a 70-year-old woman, none of which comes across in the way the two characters interact on screen.
The other major problem that I had was the story. Rather than pursuing the storyline of a town of people 100 years old and the ways they react with the modern day, the scriptwriter invents a contrived social situation – where the townspeople all must agree to drown themselves on their hundredth birthday – and then jams it onto a standard Town With a Sinister Secret plot. It is not particularly clear why this is the case – why the townspeople decided why everybody had to die when they turn 100, for instance. More so, the scenario is presented without conviction – the townspeople compliantly go along with it, none of them ever seem to want to keep living or protest about having to die at that age. It feels like an arbitrary situation that has been invented for the sole purpose of giving the film a dramatic structure.