Xxy

What could easily have been an exploitative freak show is instead a somber, earnest drama about the issues facing intersexed individuals – those born with male and female genitalia. For the past few years, Argentine biologist Nestor Kraken (Ricardo Darin) has been studying and protecting the wild turtles that swim off the coastal beaches of Uruguay...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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What could easily have been an exploitative freak show is instead a somber, earnest drama about the issues facing intersexed individuals – those born with male and female genitalia.

For the past few years, Argentine biologist Nestor Kraken (Ricardo Darin) has been studying and protecting the wild turtles that swim off the coastal beaches of Uruguay where he and his wife, Suli (Valeria Bertuccelli), now live in a isolated house. Kraken is devoted to the welfare of these amphibious creatures, which are often injured or killed by the local fishermen's boats and nets, but it soon becomes clear that the real reason he and Suli moved away from everything familiar was to protect 15-year-old Alex (Ines Efron), who harbors an unsual secret: Alex was born with both a penis and a vagina, a rare but not unheard of phenomenon. Most intersexed children are "normalized" shortly after birth, but Kraken refused to allow it. Now a post-pubescent adolescent, Alex has begun to look more like a girl than a boy -- she has smooth skin and breasts -- though much of her appearance is due to the hormones she recently decided to stop taking. Alex is tired of change, be it hormonal or home, but without the pills she runs the risk of deviating from the female route and becoming more "masculinized." Protective Suli has invited Ramiro (German Palacios) and Erika (Carolina Pelleritti) to visit with their 16-year-old son, Alvaro (Martin Piroyansky), telling Kraken it's just an opportunity to see old friends from back home. What she doesn't say is that Ramiro is a plastic surgeon specializing in the correction of deformities and birth defects, and Suli hopes he can offer some suggestions about Alex. Kraken is furious when he finds out: He considers Ramiro no different than the forces of normality he tried to escape when he moved his family to middle of nowhere. But even before Ramiro arrived in Uruguay, those forces had already begun to intrude. Word of Alex's carefully kept secret has begun to spread among the local fisherman, and Alex has become sexually aggressive, fooling around with a local boy and now setting his/her sights on Alvaro.

Once upon a time, a film about intersexuality would have been relegated to the exploitation road-show circuit, and far from posing provocative questions about whether an individual's ambiguous genitals should be conformed to one sex or another and, if so, whose choice should that be, it would have ended with a moralizing lesson that reinforced gender roles. Argentine director Lucia Puenzo's film, based on a short story by Sergio Bizzio, tackles the controversial subject completely seriously, even if that seriousness is a bit glum at times. Alex's relationship with Alvaro isn't sufficiently developed to support that brutally honest 11th hour scene between them, but Efron's remarkable performance as a wild child who seems to truly exist somewhere betwixt and between is riveting.

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  • Released: 2007
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: What could easily have been an exploitative freak show is instead a somber, earnest drama about the issues facing intersexed individuals – those born with male and female genitalia. For the past few years, Argentine biologist Nestor Kraken (Ricardo Dar… (more)

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