Gerardo Naranjo’s third feature, I’m Gonna Explode (Voy a explotar) is an infectious, stylish take on the classic theme of young lovers on the run. Roman (Juan Pablo de Santiago) is the son of a congressman with a penchant for murderous fantasies; kicked out of his private school after his incriminating diary is discovered, he winds up at the same middle-class high school as Maru (Maria Deschamps). She’s bored and detached, desperately looking for some kind of meaning in her seemingly pointless life. The connection between them is instantaneous, and they quickly decide to run away together; in Maru’s words, spoken in a voice-over, ‘Two kids disappear, and it’s an adventure’. While they dream about going to Mexico City, their rebellious, yet quaintly domestic fantasy is played out much closer to home, where they can keep a mischievous eye on their concerned parents.
Maru and Roman’s rebellion has a childlike quality to it; they’re caught up in the excitement of skipping school, not answering to authority, getting drunk on tequila and wine. But also mixed up in their new-found freedom is the flush of first love, and a growing awareness of their sexuality as their platonic friendship evolves into something much more intense. The film is scattered with beautiful, wordless moments that capture their feelings for each other: in one perfect shot the camera rests on Maru’s face as she stares intently at Roman, a subtle half-smile on her face hinting at her desire.
Maru’s thoughts, voiced in her diary, reveal her belief that they were destined to meet; that finding a twin in Roman has given her something to live for. But Roman is less idealistic, more narcissistic, with a desperate edge that she lacks. As their parents and the police inch closer to finding them, he’s forced to reconcile his feelings for her with his own instincts for self-preservation. Ultimately, a childish obsession with guns and an inability to know when to stop running lead to a devastating chain of events that shatters their naí¯ve pursuit of freedom.
Naranjo, who studied film at the American Film Institute alongside another rising talent, Azazel Jacobs, whose Momma’s Man was released in May, lovingly pays tribute to the films that helped inspire I’m Gonna Explode. There’s an unmistakeable fondness for the aesthetics of the nouvelle vague, with Godard’s Pierrot le fou (1965) an obvious inspiration, while the composer Georges Delerue’s music from Le Mépris (1963) also features on the eclectic soundtrack (along with bands like Interpol). And as the bond between Maru and Roman grows deeper, Tobias Datum, the director of photography, borrows a few iconic shots from Badlands (1973), his camera lingering on close-ups of blue sky and wild flowers, reflections on the fleeting beauty of young love.
I’m Gonna Explode is a beguiling, yet tragic love story, told with a very modern, pop sensibility. While the film is a little rough around the edges (the handling of the plot is a little clumsy at times), it marks Naranjo out as a unique filmmaker in the Mexican new wave.