XXY: DVD Review

Lucía Puenzo’s feature-length directorial début has picked up an impressive twenty awards around the world, and we think it deserved every one. XXY has such a complex plot that it could easily have become self-absorbed to the point of alienating its audience, but Puenzo and her predominantly Argentine cast have succeeded in making a film which tackles extraordinarily difficult issues whilst avoiding the danger of becoming detached from reality.

The little boy who never was

XXY tells the story of Álex (Efron), a fifteen-year-old whose family has moved to a remote region of Uruguay to preserve the secret of his/her hermaphroditism. Álex’s parents resolved to raise their child as a girl but not to commit her to corrective surgery; as the film begins she has just stopped taking the drugs which suppress her masculine characteristics, overcome by her inner turmoil and inability to decide her own gender.

Into this already volatile mix are thrust a family which Álex’s mother Suli (Bertuccelli) has invited to stay, including a plastic surgeon who Suli hopes will influence Álex towards wanting the surgery her father (Darín) insisted must be her choice. Accompanying the doctor is his teenage son Álvaro (Piroyansky), who is ignorant of Álex’s secret – and is forced into making some difficult decisions of his own when he realises the depth of feeling he harbours for her.

The human condition writ in flesh

Shot against the rugged and uncompromising background of the Uruguayan coast, XXY‘s cinematography is only matched by its superb lead cast. Despite her comparatively low screen time, Inés Efron’s performance is captivating and memorable – each awkward, androgynous stride emphasises the extent to which her problem must impact upon every aspect of her life. Martín Piroyansky is also superb as the introverted adolescent whose sudden feelings for Álex make him question his own sexuality. The supporting cast is solid but forgettable, with the exception of Ricardo Darín’s superb turn as the doting father whose biggest fear is losing his little girl.

In a world where a solid sense of self is increasingly hard to come by, the elegant message of XXY is one which its viewers will not forget in a hurry. The cold, dreary tones which pervade the whole film – the only time we see pure, unfettered sunlight is during a brief shot where Álex is blissfully alone – emphasise both the crushing tedium of her exile and the reality of her plight. Whilst most of us can take the black and white fact of our gender for granted, all that remains for Álex are more shades of grey.

This is an exquisite film which delivers its emotional payload with style and delicacy. Not to be missed.

About The Author