Cert – 15, Run-time – 1 hour 37 minutes, Director – Brian Duffield
When her classmates begin to randomly explode Mara (Katherine Langford) sparks a relationship with fellow student Dylan (Charlie Plummer) when everyone who remains are put through quarantined trials.
Perhaps one of the best ways to describe writer-director Brian Duffield’s directorial debut has been used as the poster tagline, “an explosive love story”. Although while the relationship between students Mara (Katherine Langford) and Dylan (Charlie Plummer) does play a key part in this adaptation of the Aaron Starmer YA novel of the same name we focus for the most part on Mara and how the sudden random explosions of her classmates throws her life into turmoil. Teenagers in their final year of high school, planning to go off to college, simply turn into splatters of blood, vanishing simply leaving soaking dark-red clothes, with no warning. “It was like a Cronenberg movie” exclaims one student after the first instance leaves a number of the young adults traumatised. Duffield’s screenplay contains a handful of such references, including some to Dr Strangelove, showing some of the inspirations for the film, while its tone and feel still shows promise for a potential future cult following. Yet, amongst all of this there’s no denying the strong teen movie feel at Spontaneous’ heart.
As the teenagers are locked into a highly protective quarantine – cue laugh-out-loud testing and interview montages, on student dead-pan demanding that his lawyer be present – they go through various new drug tests in the hope that this will stop the increasingly frequent, bloody deaths. While some live in fear that the same will happen to them others worry about their school grades before college. Meanwhile Mara and Dylan grow closer and manage to blossom a romance out of it. They somewhat forget about their worries and begin to live for each other in the heady, swirling chaos of life in the town their stuck in until life moves on, however that may be. Mara spirals and swirls throughout the film, her mental state rising and declining over the fine-flow of the film’s narrative. The character remains a joy over this entire course thanks to Langford’s fantastic central performance.
While the supporting class, and Plummer’s likably, lightly awkward love interest who raises Mara’s mood and creates humorous uplift in the dark comedy, are all good and push the film further; making for an even more enjoyable teen comedy, Langford truly steals the show in a number of scenes. Even during the latter stages of the film where some moments appear to get a bit lengthier as themes and ideas are being wrapped up there’s enough energy in the central performance to keep you engaged and laughing along with the film. Duffield’s screenplay is cleverly written, not just when it comes to the great, snappy and often sarcastic dialogue and energetic montage sequences, further fuelling the wit and highly entertaining atmosphere of the film. It might feel free-wheeling, but it’s clearly been carefully planned out and scripted.
Even as the characters find themselves in increasingly desperate situations, their mood declining as Mara specifically turns to what she believes is her only friend – alcohol, including some of her own intensely boozy cocktail creations – the film never looks down on, or pokes fun at them. There are dramatic sequences. Panic in the corridors as more students begin to explode and the drug tests fail. While such scenes might contain hints of comedy the root is somewhat serious, yet helps to fuel character and the comedic tones to come. When blended with the fine performances and the frequently effective humour this is an absolute hit, both for the current teen audience and perhaps those in the future too, alongside a potential range of other audience members. This truly is an explosively fun time.
Very smart and very funny, Spontaneous is an absolute blast, not just because of Katherine Langford’s joyous lead performance. Brian Duffield’s directorial debut is cleverly written and brings about a number of great laughs throughout its high teen comedy energy.