Spontaneous Review: An explosively heartwarming and hilarious love story
With there being growing conflicts with the U.S. and escalating tension causing strained relationship as election day grows nearer, honestly, I’ve been craving a pick me up comedy to give me some good vibes and positivity. Looking through recent releases, I stumbled upon a horror/comedy I saw a trailer for not too long ago – the directorial debut of prominent writer Brian Duffield, Spontaneous. At first, it delivered the incredible dark comedy that more than satisfied my craving, but then became something so much more.
The story, based on the novel of the same name by Aaron Starmer, revolves around a class of high school seniors that are spontaneously combusting for no real reason. One second a boring class is going on as usual and then the room and students are coated in blood because someone’s just exploded. With there being no way to tell when or why someone is about to explode, everyone reflects on how to live their life since there’s no telling when it’ll be their turn to become puddle of blood – especially Mara (Katherine Langford) and Dylan (Charlie Plummer). They’re two outcasts with a bit of an edge that come together after the first explosion causes them to make bolder choices and it sparks a romantic connection between them that gives them hope in an explosive time.
Spontaneous is the funniest film I’ve seen this year as Duffield’s delightfully, darkly hilarious script works so perfectly with these characters and premise. Mara’s uncaring attitude creates some really funny interactions when dealing with grieving people, there’s an immaturity to the humor that fits really well with the high school setting and adds in some charm with Mara and Dylan’s relationship, and it even makes the storytelling more energized and engaging. There’s a lot of fourth-wall breaking that would seem cliché on paper, but ends up working really well in creating a compelling narrative as Dylan talking about how he developed a crush on Mara and Mara talking about how all of this started is made to be really funny. There’re also some political jabs with some being nice, the moment of Mara in her grieving outfit and her vision as the female president had me dying, as well as some on the nose knocks that just aren’t as clever. Not to mention, just having people explode randomly adds in this great element of surprise.
A good chunk of the explosions that happens throughout this film are absolutely hilarious with how comically bloody they are. When someone explodes, watching around them just get doused in blood in just insane and usually comes out of nowhere. It’s a true blend of horror and comedy and gore-hounds will leave Spontaneous plenty pleased. The opening explosion is especially funny as it completely misses Mara as she picks something up. Even while it’s easy to tell who’s likely to succumb to an explosive end, the film also does a great job utilizing such an unexpected plot device to add in some surprising heartbreak.
Honestly, there isn’t really an unlikable character in this entire movie and its genuinely impressive how Duffield makes these explosive deaths, even the funnier ones, very heartbreaking. Using things like school pictures and the understandably horrified reactions of students, Duffield brings a lot of heartfelt emotions to this moment as it really stings to see likeable characters, especially high schoolers, just explode. There’s a very well-crafted sequence that’s just completely blood-soaked with rapid-fire explosions that catches you off guard and really makes you worried if Mara and Dylan aren’t going to make it. Frankly, I would’ve never guessed it, but the film’s spontaneous combustion might be one of the greatest and most effective plot devices in recent time as it creates both compelling character moments as well as very poignant and thought-provoking themes about life.
Mara and Dylan’s relationship is truly one of the most heartwarming things about this film as it hits a really emotional chord with their incredible dynamic. These two are legit relationship goals as they really just get each other, and it really makes you care about them. They can transition from being very jokey with each other to having serious conversations about Dylan losing his father and their relationship becoming serious to delivering funny movie references perfectly. It’s in big part to Langford and Plummer having really great chemistry and they create this romantic energy that viewers will easily attach themselves too. Spontaneous really has all of the heartwarming hilarity that anyone could want right now, but what makes it something much more special is how it looks at the darker shades of itself.
After the film and Mara and Dylan’s relationship takes a traumatic turn, the film begins to explore themes of grief and trauma in traumatic times. From how people blame others and themselves for things that they simply can’t control and even how Mara attempts to cope with pain through drinking, there’re some deeply emotional glimpses at grief that resonate really well with what’s happening now. With how much the film makes you really love these characters, especially Mara and Dylan, it makes the sadder moments of the film much more impactful and it certainly brings tears with how hopeless things seem at times. However, Spontaneous leaves things on a much more positive outlook and ends up giving viewers a much stronger view of living.
The ending realization that Mara has about life isn’t exactly the most unexpected answer, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t true or leaves an impact. The film’s answer to it’s looming explosive death is simply to keep living without fear and try your best to make the most of your life because it could end at any moment. The whole live everyday like it’s your last motto isn’t something viewers haven’t heard before, but it has a much more compelling and lasting effect here with how the film handles talking about the explosions. The choice of there being no real conclusive answer to the spontaneous explosion of students is perfect as it makes its symbolism for life’s many mysteries and sudden tragedies come across much easier. It perfectly represents the impact a traumatic and sudden death can have on someone and how to move forward. There’s a great conversation between Mara and Dylan’s mom (Chelah Horsdal) that happens towards the end of the movie that’s very heartwarming and real as it reflects how people can overcome grief through support and simply asking the simple question of “are you okay?” Not to mention, Langford absolutely kills the film’s closing monologue, and it leaves things on the perfect note.
Spontaneous is one of the best surprises of the year and easily one of the most original films I’ve seen lately. It blends the horrific hilarity of watching sudden bloody explosions and amazing dialogue with some poignant and uplifting views about life that are truly what we need right now. It’s truly a can’t miss experience.