More noise than signal

This review has been ‘repurposed’ from my other site, theOneliner.com

If there had been anything at all scheduled against XXY I doubt I would have bothered with it. An Argentinean film about a teenage hermaphrodite coming to terms with her(/his, I guess) sexuality and identity? The only way to turn this into more of the stereotypical film fest fave would be set it in the middle of a harrowing civil war. At any rate, there wasn’t, so I did bother with it, and as usual I was completely wrong about the film’s worth. I really must get over this irrational prejudice against Argentine hermaphrodite dramas.

Things come to a head in this particular tale when Alvaro (Martin Piroyansky) and his parents, old friends of Alex (Ines Efron), the hermaphroditic focus of the story’s parents come to stay for a short while. This stay happens to correspond to a time where Alex has decided she’s had quite enough drugs for one lifetime, and stops taking the drugs retarding a slide into masculinity. Interesting times, although the ulterior motive for Alvaro’s parents to visit revolves around convincing Alex’s father Kraken (Ricardo Darin) to allow Alvaro’s pop Ramiro (German Palacios), a respected plastic surgeon, to give Alex a phallic nip and tuck. That sort of thing would seem to be outside the usual remit of plastic surgery to my tiny, ignorant mind, but what do I know? Nothing of course, that’s why I’m ignorant. Duh.

This prompts Kraken to go off an a soul-searching supporting plotline wondering if putting off any ‘corrective’ surgery at birth to allow Alex to make her own decisions on the matter was the right thing to do, especially in regard of the assault Alex receives after her previously closely guarded secret becomes public knowledge.

Meanwhile, the navel-gazing isn’t confined to the elders of the piece. While Alvaro and Alex don’t immediately hit it off (although as introductions go, Alex’s inquisition into Alvaro’s masturbatory habits is a gambit unlikely to ever succeed), they eventually come to terms with an attraction that leads to Alvaro getting an unexpected surprise during a fumbling encounter.

Between this and Teeth I’m beginning to think that the official theme of the EIFF this year isn’t ‘screenwriting and the written word’ as Hannah McGill claims, but ‘unusual genitalia’. Not that this is a bad thing, you understand. I’m sure if only more festivals focused on dodgy bathing suit areas then the world would be a far more interesting place in general.

Especially if they all happened to be as good as XXY. The delicate performances from the two young leads on whom the vast bulk of the drama must hang give sensitive, believable performances that belie their tender years. The elders of the film provide a steadying hand, without becoming detached from the heart of the piece.

The rural Uruguayan setting always manages to look rather appealing without eve swaying into picture postcard territory, and the calm nature of the surroundings supply a welcome counterpoint to the inner turmoil facing the characters. While the pacing is arguably a shade on the sedate side, it never feels as though it’s dragging. If one were to be critical, and I rather have to admit that’s sort of the point of writing this, then there’s something of a final reel bolt from the blue where Alvaro’s dad decides to suddenly become a total jackass for no reason whatsoever, which seems to have been born of the character not having done for a while rather than it being particularly necessary or believable.

All in all, I must admit that it’s certainly the best Argentinean hermaphrodite drama that I’ve seen this year. It’s a believable and likable drama that truly deserves to find an audience, somewhere, sometime. Let’s hope someone picks it up for distribution.

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