Movies We Like
The Exploding Girl
Almost everyone has or has had that friend who feels like a soulmate; the one you think about daily and encourage--with some effort--in relationships, who just so happens to be the person that you cannot imagine life without. The Exploding Girl is a tender and offbeat little film about two friends whose love is too fragile to go beyond that title.
In her debut performance Zoe Kazan plays Ivy, a girl with epilepsy returning to her New York hometown for Spring break accompanied her best friend, Al (Mark Rendall). They've known each other since they were kids and each is more or less in a fickle college relationship that takes a surpsring amount of effort to keep afloat. Al discovers that his parents have rented out his room to for the summer and ends up spending his entire vacation living with Ivy and her mother (Maryann Urbano). The films spans the entirety of their summer vacation, taking the viewer through all their old haunts and small moments that leave an impression of timelessness within their friendship. The only interruption in their time together is Zoe's summer job as a youth counselor and her visits to the doctor to monitor her epilepsy.
Ivy is the focal point of the film and, as the title suggests, seems to be a delicate person on the verge of a breakdown. She more or less keeps her emotions hidden from others and, to an extent, this is vital to her health due to the fact that certain stressers trigger her epileptic fits. This sort of closed-off and protected demeanor slowly starts to become frustrating for the viewer. We see her desperately try to get in touch with her boyfriend who won't return her calls. We see her as the wallflower at parties while she watches Al interact with girls, and the self-torture doesn't make sense. To the viewer, who most likely has been in a similar situation, the obvious course of action would be to explore the dynamics between them instead of ignore them. However, this would bring forth the age-old question that many struggle with: would the friendship change if it became romantic and is it worth it to take a risk that might involve losing a close friend? What's more, there's the fear of rejection to consider.
As both struggle with these questions Ivy's condition grows worse until a small chain of events brings both her and Al to face each other without guarding their hearts.
Though the premise and style of the film is quite simple and alarmingly straightforward, I can honestly say that I've yet to see a story so honest and, dare I say, "correct" in its attempt to summarize an important and bittersweet aspect of youth. Perhaps those who have been in similar situations might benefit from seeing the film, but speaking from past experience, it was this similarity that at times can make the viewer tense and somewhat emotional. Watching someone go through an experience that you have been through while you mentally try to persuade them to make different choices is one of the most cathartic and, by nature, frustrating things when it comes to movies about love and romance.
Thankfully Writer-Director Bradley Rust Grey does allow for several breaks within the film that allow you to contemplate all of these little questions. Like the pause before the next song on a record, there are scattered images and tender moments--both random and related to the story--that lead you into an almost meditative state of mind. The casting was an exercise in faith as Rendall (an experienced actor) took the backseat to Kazan. While Rendall certainly gave a good performance, the entire film seems more like a coming-of-age exploration through the point of view of Kazan--who did a wonderful job being the awkward youth without making it seem stylishly awkward. I recommend the film to those who can appreciate the subtleties of independent films that are character studies and for those willing to approach the subject with an open heart and a sense of understanding.