review for The Exploding Girl on AllMovie

The Exploding Girl (2009)
by Josh Ralske review

The Exploding Girl is a gorgeous, quiet character study. As with its "sister film," In Between Days, the mode is observational and deliberately paced. The story is slight (though this film is more narrative-driven and more concise than the earlier one), it's beautifully photographed (in this case by Eric Lin), and the film is anchored by a strong, naturalistic lead performance. The Exploding Girl opens with an amazing shot of Ivy (baby-faced Zoe Kazan) through a car windshield, with the reflection of the trees overhead as she travels home from college for the summer. It creates an impressionistic image of Ivy that foreshadows thematic elements of the film involving Ivy's emotional confusion and her epilepsy. The shot is mirrored by a similar shot, under very different circumstances, at the end of the film. The Exploding Girl is certainly not about epilepsy. Ivy's illness is treated in an offhand manner, as an unfortunate but inescapable aspect of her daily existence. The movie concerns Ivy's friendship with Al (Mark Rendall), her best friend. Greg, Ivy's boyfriend, is only heard over the phone speaking to Ivy, and he's a bit of a straw man here, but there's enough charm, verisimilitude, and genuine emotion in the film to overcome that minor flaw. The warmth of Ivy's friendship with Al as they pass the time hanging out and the gradually escalating tension that threatens to fracture their bond feel exquisitely true to life. The Exploding Girl is made with sensitivity and skill, and in its modest, efficient way, develops a surprising resonance.