A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
You will get through high school, and life will get better.
Positive Role Models
Friends and parents nurture one another's social emotional state as things spiral out of control. Mara and Dylan's romantic relationship escalates at her behest. Classmates represent diversity in sexual orientation and ethnicity.
Violence & Scariness
Teens die throughout the movie by spontaneously combusting -- it's shocking, very bloody, and has the potential to be incredibly upsetting and anxiety inducing. Several mentions of wanting to be dead.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Sex, Romance & Nudity
Teens make out. Sexual jokes. A monogamous teen couple is shown in bed after sex, completely under the covers.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Extremely frequent use of very strong language, including "a--holes," "bitch," "d--k," "s--t," "slut," "whore," "what the hell," and frequent use of "f--k." Innuendo with last name "Cox." Middle-finger gesture. "Oh my G-d."
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Teens smoke pot and get drunk. A character gets high on mushrooms against her friend's advice, with negative consequences. Two teen drug dealers are minor characters. Excessive drinking is shown as a way to subdue emotional pain and depression. Montage of kids popping pills experimentally prescribed by adults (feels similar to the litany of medications real-life teens are prescribed to deal with various mental health concerns).
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Spontaneous is a dark romantic comedy that serves as a metaphor for understanding the anxiety and depression affecting many of today's real-life teens. Based on Aaron Starmer's YA novel, it's about how "surviving high school," once a joke, has become more literal -- here, teen characters die abruptly and distressingly as the result of spontaneous combustion. The exploding teens could be seen as representing school shooting victims, those who've accidentally overdosed, deaths via suicide, or even the intense pressure that accompanies high school life today. The combustions are very bloody (sometimes chunky, too), and one intense scene with multiple explosions could be a major anxiety trigger. (Spoiler alert!) It involves high schoolers screaming and stampeding for the exits, getting drenched in blood as their friends are rapidly bursting, and it may be extremely hard for teens to watch. Strong language is constant ("d--k," "f--k," and much more), and there's kissing and implied sex. As a way to process trauma, main character Mara (Katherine Langford) decides to start taking drugs against her friend's advice; it makes her sick, but she still has fun. Later, she steals alcohol and gets drunk to numb her emotional pain, which is played for humor. Mara's mom and dad have a role here, too. The movie shows how helpless they feel when it comes to helping their daughter cope with fear, grief, and profound loss -- and parents are likely to benefit from watching this amazing, if intense, film about Gen Z. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Not since Heathers has a such a quirky, funny, wholly original, yet horrifyingly relatable tragicomic romance summed up the experience of many contemporary teens. Spontaneous' concept is bonkers -- the senior class literally starts exploding -- and remarkably, the laughs come hard. But halfway through, the tears come harder, and the quirky storyline becomes painfully resonant. Writer/first-time director Brian Duffield (adapting his screenplay from Aaron Starmer's novel) masterfully balances the film's tone, weaving together a sweet blooming romance, sarcastic and expressive dialogue ("she was a sundress of a person"), and moments of genuine terror and airsucking despair. For parents and caregivers who struggle to understand the mental health challenges that many among Gen Z face, Spontaneous is a powerful metaphor.
Langford takes a 180-degree turn from her suicide-focused 13 Reasons Why character; Mara's story is all about realizing that if you can just hang on until graduation, you may be lucky enough to have more opportunities awaiting you. The film's tone flips after one devastating, heart-piercing scene which is so transportive that, for some, it could be too much. Unlike when Daniel Waters wrote Heathers in the 1980s, deadly violence in school is all too prevalent now. Even though Spontaneous doesn't directly indicate what the explosions are supposed to represent, it's a forceful empathizer. And as emotional as the film gets as we go off the deep end with Mara, it ends with a burst of robust hope that could be enough to buoy some teens through tough times.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.