In 'Spontaneous', Katherine Langford becomes a high school hero for a world in the midst of a very real global pandemic

Get ready to add a new title to the list of all-time great coming-of-age films.

click to enlarge Growing up gets a lot harder for Mara Carlyle (Katherine Langford, looming) in "Spontaneous" when all of her friends inexplicably start exploding - Paramount Home Entertainment
Paramount Home Entertainment
Growing up gets a lot harder for Mara Carlyle (Katherine Langford, looming) in "Spontaneous" when all of her friends inexplicably start exploding

The high school coming-of-age comedy is an iconic Hollywood genre, one of the few places where young female characters historically have been presented and written as real people, with real voices, showing strength and perseverance even while dealing with a myriad of exaggerated yet universal issues.

From Samantha Baker (“16 Candles”) to Chris Parker (“Adventures in Babysitting”), Veronica Sawyer (“Heathers”) to Olive Penderghast (“Easy A”), such characters have served as inspiration and role models.

4 out of 5 stars.
Run Time: 101 minutes
Now streaming on all major Video-on-Demand platforms

They have helped other young women across the globe find their own voices and they have helped who knows how many young men figure out not only how to talk to girls, but also how to treat them with respect and, more importantly, how to listen to what they need and want.

Well, guess what, it’s time to add another name to the list of all-time greats: Mara Carlyle.

Mara (Katherine Langford) is your ordinary high school senior, only except she’s not. She’s outspoken, quick-witted, and wickedly self-aware. She name-checks obscure movies, (literally) bites the hand of a suitor who thinks it’s okay to touch her without permission, and, in one hysterical flashback, wears a funeral veil and all black the day after Donald Trump is elected president.

When a teacher asks why she’s dressed so dour, Mara doesn’t miss a beat: “Because I’m motherfucking grieving.”

But, as her classmates start randomly exploding in a torrent of blood and gore, whether in class, on the football field or at a party, Mara becomes a beacon of hope not just for her fictional friends, but for any high-school aged or slightly older viewer watching “Spontaneous” in the midst of a very real global pandemic.

“Spontaneous” is a delight. It’s edgy, unnerving, surprisingly dark, and—like Mara—wise beyond its years.

It takes the traditional structure and narrative thrust of a classic coming-of-age story and wholly subverts it in a way that aptly applies to the current COVID-19 crisis.

I challenge anyone not to fall head over heels for Mara and her beautifully scripted and perfectly acted love story with Dylan (Charlie Plummer), the boy who finds the courage to finally confess his feelings, even as the world around is coming unmoored.

More importantly, “Spontaneous” is unbelievably smart.

Through Mara’s eyes, words and actions, “Spontaneous” offers a perfect blueprint for dealing with the highs, the lows and every possible unexpected hurdle that life can throw our way.

I can’t think of a better film to come along at this critical time.

John W. Allman has spent more than 25 years as a professional journalist and writer, but he’s loved movies his entire life. Good movies, awful movies, movies that are so gloriously bad you can’t help but champion them. Since 2009, he has cultivated a review column and now a website dedicated to the genre films that often get overlooked and interviews with cult cinema favorites like George A. Romero, Bruce Campbell and Dee Wallace. Contact him at Blood Violence and, on Facebook @BloodViolenceBabes or on Twitter @BVB_reviews.