Dir-scr: Gerardo Naranjo. Mexico. 2008. 106mins
Mexico’s Gerardo Naranjo follows up his 2006 Drama/Mex with another look at the world of the troubled teen in I’m Gonna Explode about two disaffected middle-class youngsters who come together and leave a violent aftermath. I’m Gonna Explode opens with a good deal of promise but before the first hour is over Naranjo seems to have lost his momentum. Drawing a terrific performance from his young female lead Maria Deschamps, Naranjo just about pulls it together by the final frame but never quite delivers on the promise of his early, terrific set-ups.
The result is bound to be of interest to festivals and specialised programmers and the strength of its early frames could at best carry Explode through to small-scale international arthouse while the teen angst, attractive leads and hints of a Columbine-style denouement may draw a young crowd at home. Naranjo certainly marks himself out here, despite the doldrums of Explode’s third-act predictability.
What makes Naranjo’s opening so strong is his confident mix of fantasy elements - the film starts out with teenager Roman’s violent daydreams about shooting up his classroom - with narrative jerks and uncomfortable comedic elements. Roman is 15, living in Guanajuato. His mother has died in a car crash at the hands of his drunken politico father, now remarried to his gum-snapping former secretary. Meanwhile, and similarly ill-adjusted, Maru has a father working as an illegal in the US and her mother is silent and tearful.
When Roman is expelled and sent to a new school, his and Maru’s paths violently collide. They run away - as far as the roof of Roman’s house, where their friendship deepens into a sexual one. This is where Explode is at its very best; the teenagers above, the parents below and a confident exploration of all the potential of this unexpected set-up.
But this is also where Explode backs itself into a corner that Naranjo can’t get out of with his previous verve. Slowly, watching two middle-class stroppy teenagers squabble, eat, drink, puke, have sex - or not - becomes grating, and taking them out on the road doesn’t solve the problem of where to go with this, not to mention that it leaves behind all the interesting adult characters. Deschamps is very watchable, but Juan Pablo De Santiago’s blank stare is anything but and he struggles with the central role. The film’s denouement is signposted so heavily, waiting for it becomes an exercise in clock-watching inevitability.
Technically, Naranjo’s work is more than competent, and a interesting departure from his previous style, although the score has a peculiar tendency to swell dramatically at odd moments.
(33) 1 56 43 48 70
(33) 6 99 47 98 10
Alain de la Mata
Juan Pablo de Santiago
Daniel Giminez Cacho
Martha Claudia Moreno