XXY is an interesting film from Argentinian director Lucía Puenzo. The movie deals with 15-year-old Alex and the teen’s family. Alex’s father is a marine biologist who treats animals harmed by the fishing work done near the Uruguayan island the family lives on. He has also written a book on sexuality and keeps aquariums full of clownfish, a species that is always born male but may become female later in life. This is all relevant because Alex possess both male and female genitalia, though has mostly lived as a female, in terms of presence and pronoun. Hence the title of the film.
(If you consider yourself prudish, I would avoid this trailer.)
When the movie begins, things are in crisis for Alex. Her best friend (quasi-boyfriend) recently was at the end of a punch from her—he had discovered the teen’s secret. Alex’s mother is pushing for a decision: do you want to be a man or a woman? And an old friend of the family has come for a visit…a surgeon from Buenos Aires who deals with “deformities.” On top of all this, the surgeon and his wife have brought their sexually confused son along for the trip. Where’s that going to lead?
All of that sounds like the recipe for a really great film, if you ask me. But XXY is a mixed bag. On the one hand, there is some phenomenal acting in the movie, particularly from Inés Efron, the young woman who plays the embattled Alex. Many of the actors in the film, especially Efron, are masters of conveying emotion and story through facial expressions and body language. But the world those characters inhabit is unbelievably chaotic. A single weekend in this film produces more crises than is humanly possible, including two run-ins between Alex’s father and the local fishermen, an attempted rape, more than one sexual epiphany, and several serious late-night conversations. Not to mention some bullying, swimming, and bicycle riding. Heavy stuff, true believers.