A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What 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.
- Parents say
- Kids say
Main review is misleading - this film has near constant drug use and pushes a heavy pro-drug message. The film actually ends with the main character achieving her life's goal to sit on a porch and smoke pot. Also, depicts using drugs together as a family. No joke.
What's the story?
In SPONTANEOUS, it's just another day at Covington High until Katelyn Ogden (Mellany Barros) spontaneously combusts during third period. What at first seems like a freak event quickly becomes an explosion epidemic, and Mara (Katherine Langford) and Dylan (Charlie Plummer) are soon literally hoping that they can survive high school.
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.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Spontaneous relates to real teen life. Are the deaths by explosion metaphorical? How do you think what Gen Z has had to endure will impact them as adults?
Which genre would you consider this film? How does it compare to other high school movies? Romantic comedies? Mysteries? Horror?
Who is the target audience for this film, and what do you think they'll take away?
Talk about how Spontaneous depicts grief and survivor's guilt. Is Mara's response and feelings of responsibility authentic?
- In theaters: October 2, 2020
- On DVD or streaming: November 10, 2020
- Cast: Katherine Langford, Charlie Plummer, Yvonne Orji
- Director: Brian Duffield
- Studio: Paramount
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Book Characters, Friendship, High School
- Run time: 97 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: teen drug and alcohol use, language and bloody images throughout
- Last updated: December 1, 2020
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