Review: In the sweet dark comedy 'Spontanous' teenagers are literally exploding
Courtesy of Awesomeness Films/Paramount
Don’t you hate it when a classmate randomly explodes all over you, drowning you in their blood and internal organs?
For Katherine Langford’s Mara Carlyle and the students of Covington High that seems to be a common problem. Like Jesus himself executing the long told prophecy of the rapture, teenagers, for no reason, are literally exploding, without context and without warning. Little Jimmy could be walking to his next math class, splat. How about Rebecca enjoying a nice lunch she made for herself? Splat. This unseen epidemic doesn’t discriminate or choose genders and it’s anyone's guess as to what this is, but the crux of the dark comedy “Spontaneous” would suggest if it’s your time, well, splat. So live your life to the fullest.
It’s an explosive narrative (forgive the pun) that debut filmmaker (and longtime screenwriter) Brian Duffield uses as the backdrop for a sweet and innocent romance. I mean, we all knew that high school was rough, now imagine your peers just bit the dust from stepping on a triggered landmine.
The little town in which this takes place doesn’t have answers, and despite the government conducting tests on students, nothing can guarantee their safety. So with this newfound importance on life, Dylan (Charlie Plummer - who is truly blossoming into a solid movie star) decides to shoot his shot and confess to Mara that he’s crushing on her, hard. They bond over shrooms and their romance grows steadily even as their friends are ravaged by a plague that knows no boundaries.
Other than that, it’s your basic, average, teenage romance: the two gripe about social cliques, swap virginities, share their affection for cinema, and when stuck in quarantine - because they might have the explosive gene - they crack jokes to make themselves feel better. You’ve seen it all executed before in other, sloppier, YA dramdies, and that’s part of what makes the film tick. “Spontaneous” is anchored by Langford and Plummer who not only radiate a palpable chemistry, but manage to keep their heads on straight despite the uncertainty surrounding the “Covington Curse” as the media dubs it.
But these characters certainly have an edge about them: Langford’s Mara loves to look down on the bleak outlook of our future, and shine a light on her political views, going after Trump on more than several occasions, which makes “Spontaneous” the rare film that packs an urgent poginancy. A week after the death of Ruth Bader Gingsberg, not to mention the ongoing pandemic, would suggest Duffield peaked into his crystal ball and predicted the future. He must know something that we don’t.
“Spontaneous” doesn’t always rely on comedy troupes and dance montages to lighten the mood and though some of the gorier deaths are played for laughs, there comes a point towards the end of the film where hope evaporates, trauma becomes prevalent, and children watch their classmates die while government elected officials offer their “thoughts and prayers.” School is supposed to be a safe place and over the past decade, kids have been senselessly killed in the one place meant to protect them.
It’s a cruel injustice that Duffield isn’t afraid to shine a light on and his script packs the type of nuanced punch you don’t normally get from quirky teenage comedies. Some of those darker elements could prove triggering, especially as Mara, later in the film, starts using alcohol as a coping mechanism and whose thoughts go from sarcastic to depressive, but there’s a sense of recovery that comes from the final frame of the picture, and the way in which we can rebuild ourselves from the ground up. The answers might not be what you're searching for, though Ferris Bueller once said: “Life moves pretty fast, if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it.”
Words to live by.
SPONTANEOUS will be open in select theaters October 2nd before hitting VOD/Streaming October 6th.