By Christopher Null
The very title XXY conjures up images of sensuality and the forbidden, and it isn't long into the film when it becomes evident that both will come into play in short order.
The center of the movie is Alex (Inés Efron), a girl of 15 who's obviously got a boyish streak in her. Although it's not really laid out explicitly, it soon becomes apparent that Alex harbors a secret -- one which has convinced her family to move from Argentina to an island somewhere in Uruguay -- so they can be away from prying eyes and wagging tongues. The secret: Alex is a hermaphrodite, raised as a girl but now struggling with her masculine side while being prepped quietly for surgery that will make her about as female as it gets.
Into the seaside retreat comes a family headed by Ramiro (Germán Palacios), a plastic surgeon who's been tasked by the parents with "getting to know" Alex (you connect the dots) but spends virtually none of the film in her company. That's because Alex is running around with the sad-eyed Alvaro (Martín Piroyansky), Ramiro's son who's about Alex's age. Both are sexually inexperienced, and it isn't long before Ramiro has Alex on her back in the barn... and before a shocking discovery is made (though it's one that hardly ends how you'd expect).
The Crying Game this ain't. Piled upon with film festival awards, it's a tender character study that treats gender issues with a hand so delicate you feel sad for everyone involved. Efron -- actually 22, not 15, and a woman, not intersex -- plays the troubled teenage role with aplomb. You get the feeling that she'd be happily moaning about those mean girls at school if things had turned out different for her. The only sore spot in the cast is Piroyansky, who looks like he's about the break into tears any second, an Argentine rendition of emo who feels lost at sea in this drama.
The script is written in broad strokes. Scenes abruptly start and end. Stretches of dialogue become circular, and characters repeat each other, agree, then storm off in a huff. In the end, little is resolved. Real people don't quite behave this way, and the movie's only real downfall is its earnest artiness which leaves so many delicate moments ringing false in the end.
XY, XXY, XX.
Facts and Figures
In Theaters: Friday 2nd May 2008
Distributed by: Film Movement
Production compaines: Pyramide Films
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 82%
Fresh: 36 Rotten: 8
Cast & Crew
Screenwriter: Lucía Puenzo
Starring: Ricardo Darín as Kraken, Valeria Bertuccelli as Suli, Carolina Pelleritti as Erika, Germán Palacios as Ramiro, Martín Piroyansky as Alvaro, Inés Efron as Alex