These days, if a movie doesn’t show me something new I just turn if off. I don’t have the time to waste.
I did not turn Spontaneous off.
Can a film both be gruesome and warm-hearted, grim and yet hopeful? If you’d asked me that before I’d watched Spontaneous I would’ve said probably no; that any such effort would be a tonally-confused blunder of a film.
Well, Spontaneous pulls this off and has some great lines to boot. It’s like a comfy blanket warmed by fresh blood, a cozy coffin of a movie. Under the surface it’s about the absurd expectations and responsibilities, absent any real power, that we as a society place on adolescents and how we are content to just let more than half of them disappear into what for them (and for us) amounts to societal nothingness when they inevitably fail. That it’s just expected, that they’ll de facto pop out of existence, and that even for the ones who don’t, how we all just disappear from one another’s lives like we hadn’t spent the last 15 years seeing one another every day.
The movie asks also, in a world where we all know with certainty that we are going to die, how do we survive that next day and the next after that?
The only real criticism I had of the film is that it needed better editing. Some scenes went on too long, and re-arranging the order of some of them would’ve made the film a lot more effective. For instance, the graveside scene should’ve been the film’s coda rather than the rather-more-celebratory beach house scene. It would’ve been far more hard-hitting that way, and ended the film on a more complete emotional note.
That said, Katherine Langford turns in a believable performance of insuperable grief and despair, and she echoes one of my favorite lines of Lorde’s in the film: “It feels so scary, getting old.” Of course, Lorde was 16 when she wrote that line, and I think those years are harder on people than many adults want to admit; that’s what makes it a good lyric, after all.
Spontaneous reminds us that life is for the living, and it does that by showing us the unprettiness and inevitably of death, and how it’s always there, biding its time or not, just around any corner, over our shoulder, one tremulous touch away from eternal oblivion. And that’s always our fate, no matter what. What do you do when you truly realize that?