Spontaneous (2020) – Review/Summary (with Spoilers)

Movie Poster - Spontaneous

“Spontaneous” is one of the rare films that aims to make you laugh, feel, and connect that, for the most part, succeeds in everything it set out to do.

“Spontaneous” is one of the rare films that aims to make you laugh, feel, and connect that, for the most part, succeeds in everything it set out to do.

Director(s) Brian Duffield
Screenplay By Brian Duffield
Date Released (Digital) 10/2/2020
Genre(s) Comedy, Drama, Romance, Young Adult
Duration 1 Hour, 41 Minutes
Rating Rated R
Noted Cast
Mara Katherine Langford
Tess Hayley Law
Dylan Charlie Plummer
Agent Rosetti Yvonne Orji

This content contains pertinent spoilers.

Plot Summary

It’s senior year at Covington High School, and the class of 2019 are ready for college, maybe last chances at love, and then a girl spontaneously combusts in pre-calculus. With that happening, so begins a senior year that is utter hell as it becomes less about applying to schools, beginning adulthood, and more so about surviving. But, on a lighter note, there is Mara, this eccentric young woman who, on top of being over High school, is just trying to live out that dream of growing old with her best friend Tess and smoking hookah on a beach.

Which makes Dylan, a boy who finds the first combustion to be the push he needed to talk to Mara, the perfect distraction. If not a better means to deal with what’s happening than any counseling or pill.

Character Guide

Mara (Katherine Langford)

A senior at Covington High, who clearly, while familiar with everyone, and her to them, isn’t necessarily trying to be in everyone’s face and sees high school as one of the best times of a person’s life. It’s just something she is trying to get through without losing her s***. This makes someone exploding in front of her, and the events which come after at first strange, sometimes she even finds the comedy in it. But as people she comes to know well die, and no one sure why this is happening, that carefree girl goes to dark places that might be hard to get out of.

Tess (Hayley Law)

Tess is Mara’s best friend since kindergarten, and they have long had a commitment to grow old together and, at this point, that dream stands. However, as the situation gets worse, how they choose to cope threatens to upend their friendship.

Dylan (Charlie Plummer)

Sweet, with a bit of sadness in his eyes, due to losing his dad, Dylan has harbored a crush on Mara since he was introduced in her class, and she looked at him. And while he has, meekly, in the past tried to get with her, it isn’t until people start exploding into bloody messes he realizes the direct approach is needed. Which, in the long run, leads to him making quite an impression.

Agent Rosetti (Yvonne Orji)

Once the spontaneous combustion of students is no longer considered suicide or malice from fellow students, Agent Rosetti comes in to begin the investigation of what is happening and why?

Things To Note | Question(s) Left Unanswered

  • Yvonne Orji does not play a huge role in the movie.



Mara Is The Kind Of Character Perfect For Langford

After “Cursed,” which we just couldn’t bring ourselves to finish, “Spontaneous” truly reminds you of how talented Langford is if the script is good. For I’d say Langford in “Cursed” is similar to Will Smith in “After Earth.” It stripped her of all that makes her a star, and while you recognize there is this sense of empowerment and women kicking ass, I just don’t think that was Langford’s lane.

Granted, all actors have to keep themselves from becoming typecast, but when you meet Mara, it doesn’t feel like Langford is learning on the job, or stretching herself thin. In many ways, Mara seems familiar to Langford, comfortable, and as she gets to be playful, outright weird at times, you can see her having fun.

Heck, Mara is so infectious that even with her sometimes being an ass or saying things which are so inappropriate, you laugh like she is a friend, not side her like you would a stranger.

Mara’s Relationships With Tess & Dylan

But you can’t discount the role Hayley Law and Charlie Plummer play in that. They make the absolute best scene partners in their own unique ways. When it comes to Law, while her character sadly isn’t shown to have much of a life outside of Mara, there is no denying that when together, there is an attempt to give them equal footing. For even when Mara and Dylan are deep into their relationship, Tess isn’t just tossed aside.

Rather, with Tess being Mara’s friend since kindergarten, “Spontaneous” feels like the rare film that acknowledges, while your partner will take up a lot of your time, that doesn’t mean you don’t need or want people outside of them. For sometimes, you need to reconnect with the person who you have a platonic relationship with. Much less, in the case of Tess, who provided you access to an idea of love, beyond your parents, which set the standards and expectations for whoever would desire you.

Which leads us to talk about Charlie Plummer as Dylan and his character’s relationship with Mara? Oh, prepare for some butterflies as Plummer plays that sort of dopey and adorable dude who is common in young adult movies. I’m talking, hardly any flaws, just a slight sad backstory and puppy dog eyes that just are asking for validation and consistency. Together, those two make a strange duo, as Dylan starts to get a rhythm with Mara, and their relationship is also key to Langford carrying the latter half of the movie.

Tess Is Just Enough Her Own Person To Not Feel Like A Token Black Character

Let’s be clear, is Tess an autonomous character who we get to know outside of being Mara’s friend? Absolutely not. However, as much as you could write off Tess as a token Black character, she does have enough of a personality and place to be more.

As noted, Tess has a connection with Mara that allows Mara to know love, and it partly comes from Tess having her own personality that is eccentric and melds well with Mara. One that Law makes the most of so that, while she never is allowed to rise to the point of stealing a scene, when her presence isn’t there, you will have a desire to know what is going on with her? Heck, how are she and her parents handling the epidemic, and why she chose her specific way to deal with the traumatic events happening around her? Especially once dark humor wasn’t able to shield her anymore?

How It Handles Mara’s Trauma

Speaking of trauma, there comes a point in the movie where Mara can’t use wit and sarcasm to deal with what’s going on as she sees people combust and gets blood on her, and even hit with a bone fragment. It’s when this happens that while seeing Mara drink herself silly does make the film start to drag, when she connects with Dylan’s mom, you are reminded Mara is a girl who doesn’t have a huge amount of close connections.

I’d even say it recenters the character and reminds you she was a girl with one friend, perhaps one of her first boyfriends, and while she was cool with her parents, they were her parents. So, after a certain point, when people weren’t able to distract her, coddle her, or provide hope, it’s only natural for someone who felt she had a place in the life of a selective few to blow up her life like people spontaneously did around her.

Yet, then Dylan’s mom and her interact, and you can see, despite how selfish and destructive Mara was at the time, it wasn’t so much a cry for help or attention. Rather, even if it was mostly acquaintances, Mara trauma bonded with many of them, and there is only so much the human psyche can take before it needs a reset and then someone to help you click back into reality.


Rating: Positive (Worth Seeing)

“Spontaneous” truly is a strange movie. It is a romantic comedy with this adorable boy and an odd girl who feels so strange she is hard to compare, and their love amongst so much death is bizarre at times. Yet, in watching them trauma bond, even fall in love, you can’t help but swoon and want to blur out all that is going around them.

Add in Tess and how Law makes it so you can see more for that character than that is written in, and you get a really enjoyable movie. Which, yes, when it shifts to addressing all the death when sarcasm and whimsy can’t shield its leads, it does slow down, and you feel the inertia. But after you address to the change in pacing, you’re right back there again.

Hence the positive label. “Spontaneous” hits every emotion it seeks to, and while Tess could and should have been more, maybe Dylan a little less perfect, sometimes it is about the escapism and having fun. Which “Spontaneous” delivers in so many ways.

Ending Explained (Spoilers) – Coming Friday

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