A combustible teen film has many elements to it, including comedy, horror, and romance, as well as coming-of-age. In the hands of writer/director Brian Duffield the blend of satire and drama has a thoughtful appeal.
When a pre-calculus classroom involves shocking student detonation in Spontaneous early on, the angst is on to a different level for narrator/protagonist Mara Carlyle (Katherine Langford) of Love, Simon and Knives Out and close friend Tess (Hayley Law).
Mara, a senior, will have a vicissitude in this tale which may remind some cineastes of films like Heathers and Scanners. Where she goes in relation to a secret admiring texter since freshmen year, Charlie Plummer’s Dylan and when things turn crimson enlivens a humanity tormented by grief, if not able rise up against it.
Duffield has contributed his share of screen plays in the 2010s like Insurgent, but here there’s something more pungent and prescient (a coincidence given how miserable and deflating the start of a new decade has become).
An amusing scene includes a re-enacting of a bit from the seminal E.T. and an inspired climax has a nice political lilt to it. Sequestering and quarantining become part of the shifting mood ably handled by the film-makers with a progressive emo-infused score, government will intervene with testing and administering of drugs involved to a debatable level of success.
Langford and Plummer make such a likable pair you really care where their relationship heads given their effortless naturalism amidst given the rearing of all things traumatic and snarky ways to counter it. Piper Perabo, among a mostly lesser-known cast, is in fine form as Mara’s worried mom as she inevitably turns to drugs and alcohol.