Review by Sean Boelman
Brian Duffield’s Spontaneous is probably the edgiest young adult adaptation to come out to date, but it offers a lot more than just shock value. Taking its absurd premise and making something both very entertaining and surprisingly authentic out of it, this is arguably the teen comedy to beat this year.
The film takes place at a high school where students begin to blow up unexpectedly, sending their small town into a panic and causing the teens to start living every day as if it could be their last. There are lots of romances about finding love at the last minute, many of which are very good, but this premise is undeniably very unique and bizarre.
For the most part, the movie is a dark comedy, as one would expect given the ridiculous premise. However, Duffield’s script, adapted from a novel by Aaron Starmer, is not afraid to get more contemplative. The entire final act of the film is surprisingly thoughtful, capturing a lot of the anxieties that teens go through in this modern world in which school shootings have become increasingly commonplace.
The movie’s themes about love are pretty run-of-the-mill teen romance stuff. It is the film’s more existential portions that run deeper and hit harder. A lot of the issues discussed in the movie feel even more relevant given recent circumstances, especially those moments which debate the difference between living reasonably and living in fear.
Admittedly, the characters are definitely very archetypal, but Duffield goes about them in an almost archetypal and tongue-in-cheek way. The only consequence of this is that, since the characters are so clearly and familiarly defined, it becomes easy to predict the moments in the film that are supposed to be charming.
Katherine Langford and Charlie Plummer have excellent chemistry together. Plummer is definitely charming, although he has shown the ability to do more nuanced work in the past, but Langford is the true standout here. She has both an entirely commanding screen presence and the subtlety to pull off the more quiet moments in the movie.
There’s also a lot of detail put into the film’s execution. There is a montage set to the song “Bye Bye Life” (from All That Jazz) that is both very funny and filled with the sense of dread and terror that really sets this movie apart from other angsty teen romances like this. And of course, the effects to create the explosions are pretty great.
Spontaneous is a surprisingly wonderful teen movie. It’s a shame that this doesn’t have as much of a built-in audience for it as some of the less original entries into the genre, as its creativity really deserves to be seen.
Spontaneous is now in theaters and hits VOD on October 6.