Ah high school. Over the years, we’ve seen a lot of high school movies. What on earth makes the new film Spontaneous any different? Well, have you ever been in your classroom and someone just suddenly bursts like a balloon? I’ll explain…

Katherine Langford stars as Mara Carlyle, a high school senior at Covington High School. One day in class, she drops her pencil and goes to pick it up. When she comes back up, the classmate in front of her is not there anymore. Yes, said classmate has spontaneously combusted and left everyone nearby covered in blood. This is not the last time that will happen. As scientists and agents try to figure out what’s causing these kids to explode, Mara starts spending time with fellow classmate Dylan (Charlie Plummer). Dylan thinks that anyone could explode at anytime so now is the best time to tell Mara he has a crush on her. The film is both a teen romance and a realistic depiction of something fantastical.

So, to go back to my original question, what makes Spontaneous special? It’s a number of reasons. For one, the romance in here feels genuine. It’s sweet and both Langford and Plummer banter with each other well. Speaking of the dialogue, it’s actually funny. I remember a Daniel Radcliffe movie called What If from 2014. That was a movie where the dialogue tried too hard to be clever and quipy. I remembering pausing the movie a couple times just to think, “who the hell wrote this dialogue?”

Spontaneous does not have that problem. It’s jokes work and it’s banter between the characters feels sharp. I actually cared about this relationship. I, for one, am not all that familiar with Katherine Langford. I never watched the Netflix show she was on, 13 Reasons Why. My only experience with her is in supporting roles from Love, Simon and Knives Out. Here though, she shines. It’s a funny and endearing performance while also showcasing harder, deeper emotions. I wish nothing but the best for her and Charlie Plummer. I hope they have wonderful careers because they’re wonderful here.

That’s another thing that makes Spontaneous special: the emotion. It’s a story about kids exploding. That means anyone could go at any time. No goodbyes or nothing. Just gone. The film plays with that fear. There were some moments that I predicted an explosion but other times that completely caught me off guard. It’s a comedy and a teen romance but it’s also about how a group of teenagers deal with impending doom and death. The film has a surprisingly mature message when it’s all said and done and I really respected that.

Maybe I’m reading too much into this but it could also be seen as a message about school shootings. That’s a situation where kids like the teens in this have to deal with sudden traumatic loss. There’s even a scene where someone from the government (this film is very anti-Trump) tells them that they have the country’s” thoughts and prayers.” And adding to the drama is that these kids are actually good kids. There’s no bully character in this school. Hell, the jocks are especially wholesome (“this is for our bros”). I really liked these characters and cared about what happened to them.

Spontaneous is a movie I was unsure of when I saw the trailer. But I also saw some rave reviews (my guy Richard Roper gave it four stars) so I gave it a chance. I’m glad I did. In fact, I watched it on Saturday and saw I still had the rental on Sunday. I thought to myself, “wouldn’t it be hilarious if I watched it again…” I laughed and laughed and then I watched it again. It’s a film with it’s own wit and charm. I’ll probably end up seeing it a third time. Won’t you give it a chance too?

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By Jeff Olson

Lifelong Chicagoan and film school graduate. Been passionate about film since I was a wee kid so writing about it feels like home.

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