Cherubic college student Ivy (tenderly played by Zoe Kazan) is back home in Brooklyn for summer break with her longtime platonic guy pal Al (Mark Rendall) in tow. Ivy is a wholesome and balanced college kid who has epilepsy but keeps her condition at bay as long as she manages her emotions. As the hot New York summer melts on, Ivy plays phone tag with her boyfriend Greg, but when they do awkwardly connect, each long pause reveals their growing distance. Meanwhile, she spends more time with Al. As the lines of friendship begin to blur, we wonder how long Ivy (her name itself implying that something is growing) will be able to keep all that is boiling up inside from spilling over.
Writer/director Bradley Rust Gray skillfully composes this delicate and honest portrait of a young woman at a threshold by balancing rich and observational cinematography by Eric Lin with the exquisitely resonant performances of Kazan and Rendall. The Exploding Girl, produced with his partner So Yong Kim (Treeless Mountain), is a nuanced and inspired addition to Gray's flourishing body of work.