Most every one who has been in a relationship has experienced what Ivy has at one time in their life. And whether or not they want to, “Exploding Girl”, directed by Bradley Rust Gray gives them a chance to relive it. Ivy, played by Zoe Kazan, is on a spring break from college. During her break she struggles with her feelings toward her long-time best friend Al and her fickle college boyfriend.
Ivy is epileptic and tries not to bring any attention to herself as she remains quiet and calm. She wants nothing more than to melt into the background and could easily do so but her eyes and the emotion that sit behind them don’t allow her to. An inner battle is constantly working up inside her as she goes from smiling and docile to upset and angered in a matter of seconds – those around her can’t tell how she feels as she hides her emotions so well. Even her mother, (Maryann Urbano) doesn’t really know what her daughter is feeling as she is so busy with work as a dance teacher trying to make ends meet.
One person, however can tell something is brewing and that’s Al, (Mark Rendall) an awkward but quirky character, who tiptoes around his feelings toward Ivy while at the same time trying to display them in small moments – a strong hug here, a smile and a look there, and an eagerness in his voice when he speaks to her over the phone. Suddenly circumstances bring Al closer to Ivy and he not only spends more time with her but also sleeps in her living room for the duration of the break.
In contrast Ivy’s boyfriend, Greg avoids her phone calls and sends her straight to voicemail. When he does call it’s a matter of days or hours leaving Ivy to wonder what’s really going on during his break. Greg is never seen on the screen but we don’t have to see him to know what’s really going on in his head. And with every forced, “I miss you,” that comes out when he speaks to Ivy all anyone in the audience can do is roll their eyes and think, “Yea right!”
The movie isn’t your typical romantic flick instead it’s a slow moving plot with a growing tension in every scene and without the comedic relief. There are a few moments in the film where little to nothing is said and the actions speak for themselves. In one scene Ivy is in the kitchen with Al, the camera only shows the back of her, as she is busy serving them dinner. Al stands against the cabinets with a smile on his face – perhaps imagining what it would be like to live with her forever – the only sound in this entire portion of the film is the scraping of a spatula against the skillet.
Any more narrative or dialogue would ruin the film and the tension that builds up to its ultimate climax. In short “Exploding Girl” is like watching a romance on the stage and it is the perfect film if you’re in the mood to sit back and watch a love story unfold bit by bit while each character’s motives and thoughts slowly come to light.