Home TECH ‘Winter Spring Summer or Fall’ review: Jenna Ortega’s romance makes us want to scream

‘Winter Spring Summer or Fall’ review: Jenna Ortega’s romance makes us want to scream

by Ohio Digital News

I have never rooted harder against a central movie romance than I did while watching Winter Spring Summer or Fall.

Led by Wednesday co-stars Jenna Ortega and Percy Hynes White (who is not returning for Season 2), Winter Spring Summer or Fall seems to think it’s a Gen Z Before Sunrise. Two unlikely individuals connect — on a train, no less! — and kick off a romance with a seemingly firm expiration date, as one half of the pair leaves for college in the fall.

Not only is Winter Spring Summer or Fall‘s timeline of a year longer than Before Sunrise‘s one night, it feels longer, too. Generic teen romance tropes and cringeworthy dialogue don’t help, but the cardboard characterization and excruciating series of red flag-filled “meet-cutes” take the film from unremarkable to downright painful to watch.

What’s Winter Spring Summer or Fall about?

Taking place over a series of four days — one day in each season of the year — Winter Spring Summer or Fall tells the story of overachiever Remy (Ortega) and slacker Barnes (Hynes White). The first time they meet is on a winter day when they’re both taking a train into New York City. But really, they cross paths some time earlier, when Barnes spies Remy from her neighbor’s roof. He’s out there smoking, and she’s just finished giving an interview about a prestigious Google fellowship she won. He was a (bad) boy, she was a (good) girl. Can I make it anymore obvious?

After Barnes’ earlier voyeurism and the way he follows Remy into her train car, the fact that some of his first words to her are “I’m not a stalker” is less than reassuring. It doesn’t matter how self-deprecating Hynes White’s delivery is, this meet-cute feels like Remy is meeting a guy who won’t take “no” for an answer.

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Things only get worse from there as Barnes makes a comment about how Remy’s “Hispanic thing” will help her get into college, then attempts to remedy Remy’s understandable hurt at that comment with a Talking Heads playlist. (She’s so school-focused that she’s never heard of them.) Remy finally shuts things down when Barnes’ proposal that they go on a date lands her in the ER, but the damage is done. Thanks to his persistence, Barnes has gotten into Remy’s head. By the time they reconnect at prom later that spring, she’s more interested in him, and the two begin a relationship.

Winter Spring Summer or Fall‘s romance feels more like horror.

The lead-up to Remy and Barnes’ first kiss is littered with warning signs, including a scene where Barnes drives them to a sushi restaurant that somehow requires him to park in a darkened alleyway. “If you murder me, my parents will kill you,” Remy jokes. Then run, girl! This guy already feels like a stalker; let’s not add more crimes to his resume.

Winter Spring Summer or Fall presents Barnes as someone who expands Remy’s horizons, like some manic pixie dream boy. He introduces her to the Talking Heads! He explains the New York City subway to her! He plants the idea of a gap year in her head, throwing off her immaculately planned path from Harvard to a circuit judgeship! Yet as much as Winter Spring Summer or Fall tries to play Barnes off as cute, there’s an underlying sinister quality to his actions.

Take the moments after their sushi date, when he drives Remy to his place without telling her where they’re going. Remy expresses discomfort at going in, and at the sexual expectations that may come with. Even though he assures her that that’s not what he’s thinking, how is she supposed to know that? Hell, how is the audience supposed to? We’ve seen him spy on her, follow her into a train, then pursue her even though she wasn’t comfortable with it. He’s slowly moving the goalposts of her boundaries, to the point that Remy’s agency seems more like an illusion than an active choice. The only response the film allows Ortega to have in these scenes is a charmed giggle or smile, a total underuse of the star power we’ve seen from her in projects like Scream and Wednesday.

Once their relationship truly kicks off, Winter Spring Summer or Fall shifts into an entirely different movie. The borderline-uncomfortable courtship scenes are gone, replaced with familiar teen movie melodrama: worries about college, tensions with parents, consequences of driving drunk. Here, Remy and Barnes come across as entirely different characters from those we met in the first half of the film, with Barnes seemingly losing all his slacker energy and Remy gaining a new sense of recklessness. Maybe they’ve changed each other, but we don’t get to see enough of their relationship to understand that. Of course, given the agonizing way they met, maybe that’s a relief. Winter Spring Summer or Fall isn’t a romance you’d want to spend a whole year with — even an hour and a half feels like more than enough.

Winter Spring Summer or Fall was reviewed out of its world premiere at the 2024 Tribeca Film Festival. Its release date is TBD.

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