| I'm Gonna Explode


Voy a explotar

Gerardo Naranjo

Mexico, 2008


Review by Cullen Gallagher

Posted on 08 October 2008

Source 35mm Print

Categories The 46th New York Film Festival

I’m Gonna Explode is a playful concoction from the blender of cinephile/director Gerardo Naranjo—a little Pierrot le Fou, a dash of Badlands, a hint of Harold and Maude, and garnishes from a slew of other entries in the lovers-on-the-run genre. But there’s also something else in there, something unique to Naranjo, and it’s what saves the film from drowning under its many references. In fact, I’m Gonna Explode magically floats on top of a wave of teenage angst, ecstasy, and rebellion. Naranjo abides by the same blend of impulsiveness and uncertainty that the characters live by. The references don’t seem so coy or clever, but part of a shared conversation: just as the two protagonists share homemade double-headphones so they can listen to the same radio together, so do the nods to Godard, Malick, and Ashby function more as communal gestures than insular footnotes.

Drama/Mex, Naranjo’s second feature (and first to be theatrically released in the United States) was an emotionally raw exploration of both the redemptive and imprisoning effects of relationships (romantic and platonic). With Explode, his third film, Naranjo continues to probe the shifting facets of relationships with insight, but this time also with more a sense of humor. After Roman busts his girlfriend Maru out of school, complete with gun and getaway car, the two teenage misfits hightail it to their ingenious hideout: a tent atop the apartment building where Roman’s parents live. It’s just the sort of thing two cocksure teenagers would do: prey upon the obliviousness of their parents by sticking so close to home, secretly watching them drink themselves into an anxiety-stricken stupor, then sneak downstairs and steal enough booze and grub to last for the next day. Their utopia is an indulgent never-ending party for two: loud music, TV shows, cookouts, wine guzzling, and awkward, tender embraces which neither partner is sure where they will lead.

One of the film’s successes is that it is able to be completely magical and fantastic without veering too far from the reality of teenagerdom. When not fully immersed in pranks (such as phoning in false reports in order to get their parents out of the house for a while), or inventing ways to make their life more convenient (such as using a rope-and-pulley system to haul a grill up to the roof, or the dual-headphones mentioned earlier), Roman and Maru run the gamut that all first relationships do. One half-hour they are madly in love, the next half-hour they on each other’s nerves. Now she hates him and everything he does, but he doesn’t understand—didn’t she used to think he was so cool? Didn’t he shoot a gun while rescuing her from the torment of compulsory education? But then, as always, comes reconciliation, and the lovers’ pact of never parting, forever.

The film becomes significantly heavier in the final act, as the fantasy dissolves and the two lovers are faced with the consequences of their joyride … even if they were on the roof for most of the time. The sudden realization of their own mortality is as vertiginous for them as it is for us. While the finale’s heightened sense of emotion is fitting considering the melodramatics of adolescence, it is both excessive and strained. More insightful films have been made that address this same conflict between the subjective fantasy of youth and the gritty objective reality they live in without feeling so top heavy—the boy who falls several stories without harm in Francois Truffaut’s Small Change, and particularly the final shot of Victor Erice’s Spirit of the Beehive, where the director’s refusal to cut or move the camera impresses the possibility of real danger for the characters.

Where I’m Gonna Explode is most successful is in rendering cinematic the freewheeling romanticism of adolescence (the music by Georges Delerue only emphasizes the epic proportions of their adventure). Whether faking one’s suicide during a school talent show, wandering hungover through a field, or making those first awkward touches together in the tent, Naranjo and his two lead actors (neither of whom had previous acting experience) convey the unpredictability and uncertainty of adolescence with identifiable authenticity.

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