Coles Burroughs, the selfish protagonist played by Mark Ruffalo in Austin Chick's unexceptional debut XX/XY, proclaims early on to his girlfriend Sam (Maya Stange) "I'm never growing up," and then proceeds for the film's hour and a half to prove himself right. A spineless rascal guided by his sexual urges and fear of commitment, Coles is an aspiring filmmaker who meets Sam and her freewheeling roommate Thea (Kathleen Robertson) at a party in 1993, and winds up having a ménage à trois with the alluring strangers. The ensuing fallout finds Sam and Coles in a relationship and Thea on the outside as a full-time friend/part-time lover, and this uncomfortable setup leads to a pervasive fear of infidelity - as Coles later states, "There's no room for honesty in a healthy relationship." An untrustworthy lothario, Coles is all too happy to confirm such a statement, and the three soon discover that they cannot deal with the jealousy, deceit, and anger created by their current circumstance. The trio disbands, and the film jumps ahead ten years to find the former lovers reconnecting through a chance encounter. Yet while their situations (and hairstyles) are noticeably different, very little about Coles has changed for the better, and it's not long before the sparks are once again flying between him and Sam.
The problem is, Coles is now living with the devoted Claire (Petra Wright) - who proves both her love for Coles as well as her great cinematic taste in one fell swoop by getting her beau a box set of Claire Denis films for their anniversary. Her introduction, in a refreshing twist, allows writer/director Chick to deviate from his heretofore typical romantic comedy setup. Rather than cast Claire as the icy bitch Coles has, in the wake of losing Sam, been forced to settle for, Chick wisely pulls the rug out from under us, portraying Claire as almost frighteningly ideal. After Coles and Claire get together with Sam (who has shunned an engagement proposal in London and recently returned home) and Thea (who is now married to a restaurant owner) for dinner, Claire confronts Coles about the possibility that he might still harbor feelings for his one-time love; the forthrightness, respect, and clear-headed compassion and understanding she conveys while openly discussing the issue with Coles is, in its sincerity and equanimity, shocking. With Coles once again feeling magnetically drawn to Sam, Claire's goodness is the film's most delightful surprise, and winds up complicating what initially seemed to be a rote tale of lost love rediscovered.
Continue reading: XX/XY Review