Boy meets… girl?

From the Dallas Voice

By Steve Warren Contributing Film Writer
Jun 30, 2009 – 5:05:47 PM

The festival hit ‘XXY’ tracks the travails of romance for an intersex teen

The Internet Movie Database lists 10 films, most of them documentaries, dealing at least in part with the intersex condition — all made in this century. There’s a longer but less accurate list under “hermaphrodite.” “XXY,” which screens this week at Out Takes Dallas, clearly belongs on both lists.

Alex (Inés Efron) was born with the organs of both genders to parents Kraken (Ricardo Darin) and Suli (Valeria Bertuccelli). They now live in a Uruguayan coastal village, where they hope to escape notoriety and gossip.

Now 15, Alex has been raised as a girl and has until recently been taking hormones to prevent “masculinization.” It’s nearing time for Alex to make decisions (some involving surgery) about her future, but no one in the family wants to discuss it.

Alex comes on sexually to Alvaro, the 16-year-old son of a doctor. He resists at first but soon they have an encounter that’s surprising to him and the audience, leaving both teenagers with a better idea of their sexual identity.

The film’s strengths are also its weaknesses. The genitalia in question, for instance, are never shown. That’s good — showing them would be exploitative. On the other hand, the viewer can’t help but feel teased by shots where they’re barely covered or hidden in shadows creating an annoying coyness.

There’s minimal dialogue in the script, written by director Lucia Puenzo (based on a short story by Sergio Bizzio). Again, good — we don’t need the subject talked to death — but it also leaves much of the film opaque, both in terms of exposition and the feelings of the characters. And does first-time director Puenzo really expect us to take the heavily symbolic carrot-slicing scene seriously?

One unequivocally good thing is Efron’s performance, especially in a near-rape scene that, intentionally or not, evokes memories (with more tragic results) of “Boys Don’t Cry.”

While it deserves a rating nearer ABB than XXY, the film — which has won numerous awards at various festivals (GLBT and general) — probably doesn’t deserve all the accolades it has received.

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