Moviegoer: Spontaneous

A teen learns there are scarier things than prom dates in this dark comedy 

By Diana Beechener  

Mara Carlyle (Katherine Langford: Knives Out) is sitting through another boring class when the girl sitting in front of her pops like a balloon. There’s no warning, just a burst of blood and guts that coats the classroom. Covered in blood, Mara and her classmates flee, only to be rounded up by the police and questioned. Was this a terrorist attack? Was the exploding girl trying to make a statement? What happened? 

Mara and the rest of her social studies class have no answers. But Mara realizes something awful: It might happen again. They’re told to go home and resume their normal lives. But normal life might be a thing of the past because soon enough, another student pops—then another, and another. 

The only students effected by these horrifying deaths are high school seniors. Mara and her classmates are rounded up again and put into quarantine while government scientists scramble to find a cure. The fact that their lives could end at any second spurs some students into taking chances they never thought they would.  

Mara is asked out by Dylan (Charlie Plummer: Looking for Alaska), a shy boy who’s always had a crush on her. Though Mara is hesitant, she accepts and romance blooms between the two. Soon, the duo is inseparable, doing all the obnoxious things teens do when they’re experiencing love for the first time.  

But as the people around them keep popping like overfilled balloons, Mara and Dylan must deal with the reality that their days may be numbered.  

Is it possible to fall in love while people are exploding? And what on earth is causing this horrible phenomenon?  

Heartfelt, funny, and a little bit disgusting, Spontaneous is a teen romance that even adults can enjoy. All the angst and overly verbose dialogue remains intact, but by adding a few exploding bodies and some pitch-black humor director Brian Duffield (in his feature debut) creates a movie that’s both familiar and completely unexpected. Think of this movie as Scanners meets The Fault in Our Stars 

Duffield, who worked as a screenwriter and adapted this film from a novel, has a fantastic sense of dialogue. The characters are witty, but never feel too manufactured as they analyze their precarious existence. Duffield also uses some fun narrative tricks, like characters addressing the camera to keep the energy high in this likeable story.  

The film has a surprisingly soft heart and inspirational message for a movie that features the spontaneous explosion of bodies, but it works well because of a charismatic star turn from Langford. Her Mara is the typical disaffected cynical youth we see in a lot of teen films, but there’s a vulnerability that shines through. Mara is clearly terrified of dying, but trying to seem tough and unflappable to the world. As her armor is chipped away, we begin to see what a scared kid she truly is.  

Though Spontaneous has a ton of charm (and a good amount of blood, for those considering letting kids see it), it still has a few pacing issues. The movie drags a little towards the end as the film shifts tones considerably from dark comedy to inspirational dramedy. Still, Langford’s bravura performance keeps the film from stalling as it finds its feet again.  

If you’re looking for a teen film that offers a fresh take on the “finding yourself and love through crisis” genre, Spontaneous might just feel like a breath of fresh air. This film is literally a bloody good time.  

Spontaneous is available for $6 rental on Amazon Prime or Video on Demand 

Good Dramedy * R * 101 mins.