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Tribeca Review: ‘Winter Spring Summer or Fall’ is a Standard Romance with Strong Performances

Just because two people have feelings for each other doesn’t mean they’re meant to be together. Couples often meet in surprising and unpredictable ways, and the notions of opposites attracting can be quite compelling, provided the parties involved can surmount their differences to find some sort of common ground. But pursuing separate lives with different priorities can and often does lead to an impasse, forcing a reckoning with what the future should hold and whether staying together really is the best option.

Winter Spring Summer or Fall introduces its protagonists as Barnes (Percy Hynes White) sits on a roof smoking with his friend PJ (Elias Kacavas) while they watch PJ’s neighbor Remi (Jenna Ortega) across the street. Barnes is intrigued by this mysterious creature, who is apparently an all-star student in the running for an academic award, and he can’t resist talking to her when they happen to be on the same bus. Though Remi insists that she can’t have someone like Barnes, who has vague plans for a gap year following high school while she’s dead-set on Harvard, in her life, the two become magnetized to each other and begin to fall in love without truly looking ahead to whether they truly could share the same future.

This film marks the feature directorial debut of Tiffany Paulsen, best known for penning the screenplays for Nancy Drew, Adventures in Babysitting, Holidate, and About Fate. Her experience with romantic comedies makes her a natural fit to helm this script by Dan Schoffer, which is full of rich dialogue that sees Barnes and Remi as intellectual peers despite their radically different approaches to, among other things, schoolwork and studying. It’s entertaining to see them banter and endearing to see them realize that the other may, unexpectedly enough, be exactly what each needs to feel something new and fresh.

This is not the first collaboration between Ortega and White, who previously shared the screen in season one of Netflix’s Wednesday, where Ortega portrays a considerably icier but just as brilliant student and White is a similar type of rebel. They also each appeared in one of Megan Park’s films, with Ortega anchoring The Fallout and White playing the love interest in My Old Ass. It’s understandable why they’re paired up again here, and both display immense promise and charm, handling the material well and making their characters feel lively and worth following.

What Winter Spring Summer or Fall lacks is a particular hook or novelty item, since there’s nothing about the story that’s bursting with creativity. While Barnes lives at home with his mom and shares her car, he doesn’t seem to want for much, whisking Remi away to a hole-in-the-wall sushi restaurant that surely can’t be all that cheap without any concern. Similarly, Remi’s parents (Adam Rodriguez and Marisol Nichols) push her to be great, but they’re not all that stifling and can be typically embarrassing, like when they insist on a sex talk and handing Remi condoms before she goes off to prom despite her protests that she’s not going to do anything and she definitely doesn’t want to be anywhere near this conversation.

Regardless of its unoriginality, this remains a compelling and fun watch, anchored by strong performances in what is described as a “Gen Z love story.” In that sense, it’s actually refreshing to see that, though they do text, neither partner spends much time on their phones, and Barnes even makes his first romantic grand gesture by making her a public Spotify playlist to introduce her to his favorite group. That evokes a sweet nostalgia and simplicity that’s present throughout this film, an old-fashioned romantic comedy that doesn’t invent anything new but shows that what’s always worked still does.

Movie Rating: 7/10

Awards Buzz: While Ortega did get an Emmy nomination for Wednesday, she couldn’t manage one for The Fallout, so if this ends up as a TV movie, don’t count on any awards attention despite her consistently good work.

Author

  • Abe Friedtanzer

    Abe Friedtanzer is a film and TV enthusiast who spent most of the past fifteen years in New York City. He has been the editor of MoviesWithAbe.com and TVwithAbe.com since 2007, and has been predicting the Oscars, Emmys, Golden Globes, and SAG Awards since he was allowed to stay up late enough to watch them.

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