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'Why do I have to choose?'
on 8 October 2008
15 year old Alex (Inés Efron) was born intersex; she resembles a female (and takes hormones to enhance this), but has male genitals. As she has grown older, her parents moved her from her home in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to an isolated fishing village on the coast of Uruguay, to avoid the questions of friends and relatives. Her mother is desperate for her to become wholly female, and invites a plastic surgeon (along with his wife and son) to their village to discuss surgical options. The son, Alvaro (Martin Piroyansky), is questioning his own sexuality...which becomes all the more confused as he and Alex grow attracted to one another.
XXY (Spanish, English subtitles) deals with age-old themes (social stigma, parental conflict, societal demands for sexual conformity) in a refreshing context. What does it mean to be 'male' or 'female'? Is the pressure to choose one gender or another innate, or socially-enforced? Are the neuroses that young people suffer wholly attributable to parental desire for social orthodoxy? A post-op female-to-male acquaintance of Alex's father advises: "Making her afraid of her body is the worst thing you can do to a child"...(oddly reminiscent of Van Dijk's classic quote: "Sexuality is something granted to everyone, and to teach a child to abstain from this evident intimacy is perhaps the first form of sexual violence to which it is subjected"). XXY does not seek to resolve these (perhaps unresolvable) questions, but does an excellent job of casting light onto such neglected areas of social life.
The acting is remarkable for what must have been challenging roles; completely natural and unselfconscious. The lead characters do a superb job of conveying (frequently through body language and eye movement) the turmoil that they undergo, but credit also to an exceptional supporting cast, including the powerful performance of Ricardo Darín in the role of Alex's father. The camera work and lighting combine with these other aspects to result in a moody, poignant and most memorable film. Highly recommended.