Kathy (Cathy Naden) is an archaeological academic diagnosed with a form of early-onset dementia in Second Spring. The film is a British art-house counterpart to the American drama Still Alice, focusing on the protagonist’s environment and her growing sense of isolation as her mental condition deteriorates over 80 minutes.
After separating from her husband (Matthew Jure), Kathy – sensitively played by Naden – retreats from London to the countryside with her new boyfriend Nick (Jerry Killick). Here she becomes obsessed with stopping the construction of an airport that may or may not be built. The former professor doesn’t tell Nick about her mental illness: an unlikely plot point, and one which arguably robs the story of emotional potential.
Already historically significant insofar as it claims to be the final feature captured on Fujifilm, Second Spring is never less than beautiful, especially for a low-budget, partially crowd-funded indie movie. Kathy’s story is told through its cinematography, which softly dims when the weather turns in the film’s third reel – literally in this case.
Shot on location in London and Kent’s Hoo Peninsula, the picture matches the protagonist’s symptomatic vivaciousness with buoyant clouds and living greens. The metropolis has seldom looked so good as it does at the hands of cinematographer Jonas Mortensen and colourist Russell Rowe, while Peter Zummo’s ominous, jazzy score has a particularly disquieting effect.
For all the gorgeous scenery, the drama feels surprisingly unnatural, muted by stilted dialogue and distant characters who fail to connect – and not always deliberately. Scenes in which they discuss broken cars and ruined countryside are loaded with Britishness and symbolism, but struggle to resonate, leaving Kathy drifting out of emotional range.
If the relationships were as fine as the photography, director Andy Kelleher might have a minor hit on his hands. As it stands, Second Spring’s painterly detail is always two steps ahead of its human interactions.
Second Spring is released in select cinemas on 3rd September 2021.
Watch the trailer for Second Spring here: