Sunday, January 3, 2021

Spontaneous: Movie Review

Wildly creative, insane, funny and poignant.

Spontaneous is wildly original and insane with a touch of poignancy and real world politics. Teenagers start spontaneously combusting with no reason why. The FBI arrives “Are you blowing up your classmates?” “Um, no?” “Ok, back to the drawing board”. The politicians offer their thoughts and prayers, and unsurprisingly, that doesn’t solve it either. What are the still living students supposed to do?   2020

Directed by: Brian Duffield

Screenplay by: Brian Duffield
Based on the novel by Aaron Starmer

Starring: Katherine Langford, Charlie Plummer

There are so many great one-liners but I’m afraid you’ll be unable to use in every day life unless unexplained spontaneous human combustion starts happening in your neighbourhood. “I’m not going to school tomorrow,” Mara (Katherine Langford) tells her parents. Her father (Rob Huebel) replies, “No, shit, you’re not.” But that doesn’t last long as no one is sure how to keep the kids safe. And how else are they going to be prepared for college if they don’t finish high school first? Perhaps you have to be alive to actually make it to college in the first place.

A lot of the commentary in this movie echoed the reality of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students of Parkland, Florida. From unassuming teenagers being thrust into the national spotlight, politicians offering useless platitudes that they know full well can’t help their situation, to society and teachers around them suggesting that the very school where they are more likely to get killed and watched the deaths of their classmates will offer better support for college than the real life situation they have to navigate themselves.

The socio-political observations are just undercurrents beneath the explosive surface. Spontaneous is a story of love and death told in the style of a violent and bloody horror-comedy. Mara doesn’t know how to act and spends most of the first act in this daze allowing others to help guide her. The primary other is Dylan (Charlie Plummer), a similarly-blonde-haired classmate who has had a crush on Mara for the past year which she was oblivious to, but he takes this moment to ask her out.

The pair have great chemistry with an engaging affinity, but there is a hurriedness to their relationship brought on by the spontaneity of their current existence – how much longer do we have to live? When will we know we’ve made it? And will we still be together?

The third act answers these questions in addition to further exploring the guilt and paranoia of the surviving students after an unexpected turn to the story. I don’t blame audiences for being caught off guard by the advancement; however, it’s worth bearing in mind how unique this movie, based on Aaron Starmer’s novel, is. Chaos drives the movie, and even with the emotional twists to the story, it maintains the horror-comedy style throughout. The third act also makes me ask what is Katherine Langford’s career going to look like in 10 years? Could she be a perennial Oscar-nominee or are these offbeat indies going to be too alluring? Either way, I’m excited to find out because she nails the challenging tone of the film’s denouement.