Based on the 2016 YA novel written by Aaron Starmer, Spontaneous is a coming-of-age sci-fi dramatic comedy with a dark and ludicrous twist. In this satirical film adapted by Brian Duffield, Mara Carlyle’s (Katherine Langford) life is changed forever when her classmates start spontaneously exploding.
The film is fully dependent on dark humor and since no YA novel fails to incorporate young love, Mara helplessly falls for a boy in her class named Dylan — who is played by Looking for Alaska’s Charlie Plummer — as chaos ensues around them. Duffield notes the inspiration for the film was inspired by the 1989 dark-comedic classic Heathers, however it appears that viewers seem to be more keen to compare it to The Fault in Our Stars.
Spontaneous incorporated a number of themes particular to the YA genre such as a first love, drug experimentation and a senior year existential crisis. And for the full YA effect, the film is narrated by the outcast protagonist. If you are like me, then you have a love hate relationship with these popular thematic components.
The story also drew some poignant comparisons to our current climate being that the teens feared for their lives at school everyday — which many children can unfortunately relate to as a result of both the Covid-19 pandemic and the nationwide increase in school shootings. Aside from that, Mara and some of her classmates were forced to quarantine and serve as “test subjects” for research on the explosions. And of course, just like many gen z’ers, all of the trauma they endured led Mara and the other teens to poor mental health, anxiety and addictive behaviors.
Many people who have watched Spontaneous have been wondering if the film was inspired by the pandemic. The answer is no. When Starmer wrote the novel back in 2016, he never could have imagined how close to reality it could ever get. It is merely a freaky coincidence that the film just so happened to be ready for release in 2020 during the pandemic.
I wonder if this spooky comparison is working against the filmmakers being that most of us are looking for ways to forget about the horror of this inconceivable reality we are facing rather than be reminded. I was particularly displeased with some of the more graphic death scenes displaying countless goury demises. While it may be categorized as a comedy, Spontaneous certainly gets darker than expected and is constantly reminding you of the lives being lost every day to Covid-19.
If you are a sucker for teen angst and don’t mind a ton of blood then definitely give Spontaneous a try; it may be what you need to cope with your inner demons. Otherwise, I would steer clear as this comedy may be a bit too much to handle. Spontaneous might be a film you come back to for nostalgia in 20 years, but at the moment it just seems brutal.
Spontaneous is available to rent on Amazon Prime Video.
By Blair Krassen