Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Angst of Hermaphrodites: "XXY" (Film Review)

I just watched this outstanding, multiple-award winning film, XXY. A Spanish-speaking film produced in Argentina, this approximately 91-minute film relates the trials and tribulations of Alex, a fifteen-year-old girl who is a hermaphrodite.

Unwilling to submit Alex to the surgeries her doctors recommended, her parents took away from Buenos Aires and the family settled down in an isolated wooden house near the Uruguayan shoreline. Still, Alex grows up an angry, confused, alienated girl.

One day, her mother welcomes friends from Buenos Aires. The visiting couple came with their son, sixteen-year-old Alvaro. Soon the intention of the visiting couple is revealed to be more than just a social one. Alvaro's father is a plastic surgeon, who is interested in completing Alex's gender reassignment as a woman. But Alex's parents, particularly her father, harbor doubts. They are clearly protective of her, even as they realize that Alex's female gender role has inflicted a heavy psychological cost on her.

Meanwhile. Alex and Alvaro are attracted to each other. What follows next--the intimacy--will surprise most viewers. But Alvaro and Alex are not left alone to face their respective fears as some bigoted townspeople soon catches wind of Alex's secret. How Alex and her parents resolve the bigotry of the townspeople and their fractured relationships with each other makes for an engaging resolution.

The restrained acting from the entire ensemble turns a well-written script into an outstanding film. There is no excessive sentimentality or exaggerated emotions. The cinematography captures the pathos of this family as echoed in this haunting, almost lyrical landscape of the dunes of the Uruguayan shorelines, where much of the film takes place. I highly recommend XXY to anyone interested in this complex subject matter. The film is unrated and has brief nudity and several necessary sex scenes. It features English subtitles. Note that this film is not available via your local Tampa Bay area Blockbuster or Hollywood Video stores (as best as I can ascertain), but you can check out a copy at your local St Petersburg Public Library or any of its affiliated libraries. You can obtain a free library card by showing proof of residence (e.g. current driver's license).

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