Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Lucía Puenzo|
José María Morales
|Written by||Lucía Puenzo|
|Edited by||Alex xxxZito|
Distribution Company (Argentina)|
Pyramide Distribution (France)
XXY is a 2007 Argentine-Spanish-French drama film written and directed by Lucía Puenzo. Starring Ricardo Darín, Valeria Bertuccelli, Inés Efron, and Martín Piroyansky, the film tells the story of a 15-year-old intersex person, the way her family copes with her condition and the ultimate decision that she must eventually make as she struggles to define her own gender identity amongst a society that expects certain behaviors.
XXY received positive reviews from critics, winning the Critics' Week grand prize at the 2007 Cannes film festival, as well as the ACID/CCAS Support Award. It was nominated for eight awards at the 2008 Argentine Film Critics Association Awards, winning three of them including Best Film, and was nominated or won awards at a number of other foreign film festivals. It was chosen to close the 2008 Melbourne Queer Film Festival and had a short run theatrical release before being released onto DVD. The film also won the Goya Award for Best Spanish Language Foreign Film and the Golden Crow Pheasant at the International Film Festival of Kerala.
The film's title appears to be a reference to Klinefelter syndrome, a condition in which individuals have an extra X sex chromosome. Those affected with Klinefelter syndrome often do not show highly-visible symptoms and are not aware of their condition, unless diagnosed later in life (usually due to infertility). It can be ascertained throughout the film that the main character has typical female sexual characteristics, with the exception of an enlarged clitoris, although this is coupled with an apparent hormonal regimentation.
Alex Kraken is a 15-year-old intersex person, born with both male and female genitals, who has been living and presenting herself as female and using medicines to suppress masculine features, such as a beard, and to attempt to have more feminine features. At the time of the movie, Alex has recently stopped taking her medication without telling her parents, which will cause her masculine features to begin to develop more.
Alex's parents moved with her from Argentina to a village by the sea in Uruguay, to avoid the society's discriminatory views and strict gender expectations. They wanted to help shelter her from bullying she was experiencing. Her father, Néstor Kraken, is a marine biologist who has written a book on sexuality and makes a living treating wounded animals found by fishermen. Her mother, Suli, invites friends from Argentina: a surgeon, his wife and teenage son Álvaro. The purpose, unknown to Néstor and Alex, is to discuss the possibilities of sex reassignment surgery, with Suli quietly hoping that Alex will decide to be female and go through with a surgery in the beginning.
The introduction of the relationship between Alex and Álvaro further complicates the drama of the movie. When Alex asks Álvaro directly if he would like to have sex, she is initially denied, but Álvaro later follows her from the beach and she seduces him. She begins to have anal intercourse with him (with her as the penetrative partner), and while Álvaro is surprised he does not stop Alex. Nestor catches sight of them through the door and they stop, and Alvaro rushes out feeling conflicted and still in a panic at the unexpected reversal in sexual roles. When Alex later apologizes, Álvaro reveals that he liked it and has no bad feelings towards her.
This scene opens the dialogue for the audience about gender roles and allows both characters, Alex and Álvaro, a chance to question their own identities and desires. Álvaro is raised by fairly conservative parents, and towards the end of the movie his father even expresses the desire that he hoped his son was not gay. However, Álvaro begins to question himself because he enjoyed the sexual experience with Alex even though Alex was performing anal sex on him. He is exploring his own gender and sexual identity within the confines of his parent's expectations, which contrasts with Alex's character who receives her parent's support about her situation.
At the same time, Alex is questioning her own decisions about her identity and is confronted with frustration at her own body and the limitations placed on her by society. After her father walks in on the sexual experience between his daughter and Alvaro, he realizes his child is now old enough to make her own decision about her life and her sexual identity, and seeks advice from a transgender man that he had read about in newspapers years before. The man expresses his appreciation that Alex's parents chose not to make the decision for her at birth by "castrating" her, and allowed her to make her own decision now. Alex's father is comforted by this conversation and returns to Alex recognizing that she is older now and must make her own decision.
Later in the movie, three boys from the village sexually assault Alex by forcibly pulling down her pants to see her genitals. Alex is embarrassed and ashamed by this encounter, perpetrated by the friends of Vando, her ex-friend and likely former romantic partner. Néstor realizes that reporting this to the police would cause the whole village to know about Alex's condition. However, Alex decides that it does not matter. Alex also decides that she does not want to resume taking medicines or have an operation. When asked by her father whether she wanted to choose to be either male or female, Alex replies "What if there is nothing to choose?".
Throughout the film there are multiple acknowledgements of the audience's curiosity about Alex's genitals. This is seen through the actions of other characters on screen, most notably the group of boys who assault Alex while she is on the beach. At the end of the film, Álvaro and his family are getting ready to board the boat to take them back to Buenos Aires. There is still tension between them after their last encounter in the woods. Álvaro walks away from his family to go sit behind a sea wall on the beach with Alex for a few moments. He shows her that he has started wearing the turtle tag that she had given him previously. He asks if he will ever see her again, and she tells him that she does not think that he will. They each admit to having fallen in love with each other, but when Alvaro tries to kiss Alex she pushes him away. Scarred from her experience on the beach with the three boys, she asks him if he regrets not seeing her again or not getting to see "it" more. She pushes down her pants to show Álvaro her genitals, and the audience watches at Álvaro as he looks at Alex. The camera lingers on Álvaro's face as he looks at Alex's genitals and the audience is made aware that state of Alex's genitals will not be made known to them. Álvaro's father grabs him and Alex sits against the wall for a few moments crying before she returns to her family.
The ending shot is of Alex and her family leaving their guests at the boat and walking down the boardwalk. Alex grabs her father's hand and slings it across her shoulder before the camera pans to a shot of the ocean, focusing on the distant transitioning line between the sky and sea.
- Ricardo Darín as Néstor Kraken
- Valeria Bertuccelli as Suli Kraken
- Inés Efron as Alex Kraken
- Martín Piroyansky as Álvaro
- Carolina Peleritti as Erika
- Guillermo Angelelli as Juan
- César Troncoso as Washington
- Jean Pierre Reguerraz as Esteban
- Ailín Salas as Roberta
- Luciano Martín Nóbile as Vando
- Lucas Escariz as Saul
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The genetic makeup of sex is a theme that is brought up numerous times within this film. Alex's situation is very unique, in that she was born as an intersex individual. Intersex means that a person was born with some sort of sexual variation that is evident in either their chromosomes, gonads, hormones, genitals, etc. In this case, Alex has both the female and male sexual organs. As a result, Alex constantly questions herself in terms of whether she identifies as either a boy or a girl, and, whether she is attracted to boys or girls. Therefore, Alex's uncertainty of self-identification is another theme that appears within this film.
An often overlooked theme for XXY is Nestor's unconditional love for his daughter, Alex. The movie depicts how her mother, Suli invites her best friend's family to stay with her so the husband, Ramiro, can operate on Alex to make her be the daughter Suli has always dreamt of. On the other hand, Nestor, wrote a book about Alex's condition, XXY, which took countless time. The movie also doesn't say if he was a biologist before or after Alex was born, but it's a possibility he became a biologist after all the information he researched when they discover Alex had both male and female sexual parts. Nestor also tells the story of how when Alex was born Suli was terrified and worried about Alex, but he still saw her perfect the way she is. He never pressured her to make a decision about her own body, whereas Suli tried to take control of Alex's body a few times. Suli wanted to operate right when Alex was born, but Nestor calmed her down and talked her out of it. He may seem absent minded throughout the movie because he didn't know Alex stopped taking her medicine to diminish her masculine attributes when Suli pointed it out to him. But that may not be what the director was trying to depict. It's possible he was trying to show how Suli was obsessed with Alex being the daughter she dreamt of whereas Nestor already saw Alex perfect anyway – whether she was taking the medicine or not. Of course, Nestor was taken back after seeing Alex and Alvaro having sex… but what parent wouldn't be taken back by seeing their kid have sex for the first time? Another example of Nestor's unconditional love was when he stood up for Alex after she broke her ex best friends nose and the other father was making fun of Alex. Nestor was proud of his daughter, never embarrassed. Erin Miskell lists of Five Reasons to Watch XXY and one is it discusses the impact on the parents and the differences between Nestor's and Suli's way of raising Alex.
The film received generally favorable reviews from critics. The film-critics aggregate Rotten Tomatoes reported 82% of critics gave the film a positive review based on 44 reviews, with an average score of 6.8/10. The critical consensus is: "This sharp directorial debut by Lucia Puenzo treats the challenging subject of intersex with intelligence and sensitivity." Metacritic, which assigns a standardized score out of 100, rated the film 67 based on 15 reviews, indicating "Generally favorable reviews." Roger Ebert gave the film 3.5 stars of out 4.
Ines Efron also received much critical acclaim for her performance in this film. Efron won the award for Best Actress at the Cartagena Film Festival as well as three other awards. She is also cited by Internet portal Ciudad.com.ar as "one of the most interesting arising actresses of Buenos Aires." She has been praised for depicting the character of Alex as a balanced combination of male and female, without leaning too far towards one or the other.
- "XXY (15)". British Board of Film Classification. 2008-03-18. Retrieved 2013-06-15.
- XXY at Box Office Mojo Retrieved June 15, 2013
- Leffler, Rebecca (May 26, 2007). "Critics Week grand prize to 'XXY'". Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on 2007-09-30. Retrieved 2007-06-25.
- "XXY Movie Reviews, Pictures - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2008-05-02.
- "XXY (2008): Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 2008-05-02.
- Ebert, Roger (September 4, 2008). "XXY Movie Review & Film Summary (2008)". RogerEbert.com. Retrieved October 10, 2013.