Given 2020’s extreme weirdness it wouldn’t be shocking to discover Spontaneous is based on actual events. It’s not, thankfully, but give 2020 another month or two and just maybe. I wouldn’t count out the possibility of randomly exploding humans at this point.
Based on Aaron Starmer’s popular novel, Spontaneous puts a bizarre twist on the already complicated world of high school life. Things are basically normal for Mara (Katherine Langford, 13 Reasons Why) until the day she’s seated in class and one of her fellow students explodes. Blood, guts, and gore spray those within range and mass panic ensues as the cause of the spontaneous combustion isn’t immediately known.
Was it a bomb? The result of some sort of weapon? No one can be certain. But as the hours tick by, more teenagers from this otherwise normal high school begin popping. There’s no rhyme or reason, no obvious clues, and not even the FBI can quickly come up with a plausible answer.
Yet even with the sudden reduction in students, the complicated, emotionally gut-wrenching high school world of modern teenagers goes on. Relationships are formed, parents are worried, and the slow march to graduation trudges forward.
Of course, our heroine Mara attempts to make sense of it all before ultimately blaming herself. (She’s got a connection to a lot of the poppees.) Mara, proving she has a horrible sense of timing, also falls in love while all around her friends are bursting like overfilled balloons.
Dylan (Charlie Plummer) has had a crush on the intelligent, fiercely independent Mara for years. His decision to act on it just adds another messy layer to the ridiculously weird world Mara’s attempting to navigate through without bursting into a bloody mess.
Spontaneous is completely absurd and yet totally relatable and refreshingly honest. Life is messy, the world is unpredictable, and the future is uncertain. Now’s the exact right time for this bizarre coming-of-age story and its important life lessons. Live for today. Find joy in the simple things. Cherish your friendships. Learn how to say goodbye and how to emerge on the other side of tragedy still standing strong.
Katherine Langford and Charlie Plummer are absolutely terrific in the lead roles. Their fates are very much up in the air throughout the film, and you’re definitely rooting for these two to hold themselves together against the odds. Also, kudos to director Brian Duffield and casting director Jenny Jue for casting Piper Perabo as Langford’s mom. These two look and, more importantly, give off the vibe they could actually be related.
Spontaneous is in the same league as John Hughes’ coming-of-age comedies. (I can think of no higher praise for a high school film.) It’s one of those quirky, irresistible teen films that engages all demographics. The bloody explosions – which remain hilarious throughout – might initially drive the story, but Spontaneous is at heart a story of love, loss, and hope. It’s that hope, that spirit of picking yourself up and carrying on in the face of adversity, we can all use a bit of right now.
Directed By: Brian Duffield
MPAA Rating: R for bloody images throughout, teen drug and alcohol use, and language
Streaming Release Date: October 6, 2020
Running Time: 1 hour 42 minutes