I’m Gonna Explode (Voy A Explotar)
Jean-Luc Godard famously opined that “All you need to make a movie is a girl and a gun.” Having suffered far too many Godard films in my time, I’d add that a script comes in handy too. Or if it’s Sandra Bullock’s home movies; nudity, swearing, Nazi-fetishism and excrement. Allegedly. In fact, most films would be enlivened by the addition of these things. While writer/director Gerardo Naranjo’s tale of doomed romance and disaffected youth (is there any other kind?) I’m Gonna Explode (Voy A Explotar) manages quite well without the Nazis and excrement, a script would have been nice.
Teenagers Roman (Juan Pablo de Santiago) and Maru (Maria Deschamps) are our two sullen heroes who, in the best traditions of John Hughes-style teen romance, are from opposite sides of the tracks; he’s the wealthy son of a dodgy politician, she’s the tough-talking daughter of a humble nurse. Drawn together by their mutual apathy, boredom and contempt for everyone and everything around them (kids, eh?), they decide they’re too cool for school and, after faking Maru’s attention-grabbing kidnap, they take off in a stolen car and head for…the roof of Roman’s house where they hide out and spy on the fuss they’ve created while indulging in the time-honoured clichés of coming of age movies (drinking? check, intimate confessions? check, death fantasies? check, 1st sexual fumblings? check). But young love’s fantasy idyll is fleeting. Cue the obligatory unhappy bloody ending…
Produced by Y Tu Mamá También’s stars Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna, I’m Gonna Explode, while enjoyable, never quite explodes. A talented director, Naranjo is no writer and his script feels more like a ragbag movie mash-up with its alienated teens mooching around in a vaguely Nouvelle Vague way and its swoony, naively romantic Badlands-style voiceover. It’s like instead of hitting Chicago, Ferris Bueller bought a gun, stayed home and masturbated over A bout de soufflé (a little like the director).
While you’re never in much doubt that things are going to end in tears – let’s face it, have you ever seen a film where the central character’s gun fetishism and violent fantasies ended happily? – Naranjo is well-served by his two young leads who make the most of their underwritten roles, investing their paper-thin characters with a life and vulnerability that isn’t on the page. De Santiago is cool in a self-consciously hip, nerdy way but the real revelation is Maria Deschamps whose intelligent performance is tough, honest and nakedly raw.
I’m Gonna Explode’s biggest problem is it feels like pretty much every film (with the exception of the rabid Sin Nombre) to come out of Mexico since Y Tu Mamá También. Much of the film inspires nothing but an overwhelming sense of déjà vu as it runs through the same old clichés and pays homage (steals) from the director’s favourite films. Even well-executed moments like the scenes where the couple spy on their parents feel second-hand, borrowed from Guillem Morales 2004 The Uncertain Guest (El Habitante Incierto), a film where the protagonist literally spends most of the film hiding behind the woman he’s stalking’s sofa.
I’m Gonna Explode is at its freshest in its 1st third when the director’s jerky, kinetic visuals serve to capture Roman’s fragmentary, chaotic state of mind, Maru’s voiceover inviting the audience into her head, as these two kindred spirits meet and fall for each other during a school talent show where Roman stages his mock suicide, an act that surely anyone who’s ever been to a school play or talent show will applaud. Despite all their posturing what’s refreshing about the film is the banality of the heroes’ rebellion. Ramon and Maru aren’t Bonnie and Clyde or Mickey and Mallory; two nihilistic outsiders riding straight to Hell. They’re a couple of teenagers playing hooky from reality. Ultimately, their rebellious fantasy is domestic; they’re not out to smash the system, they just want to play house.
Maria Deschamps, Juan Pablo de Santiago, Pedro González, Daniel Giménez Cacho