Why So Serious? – XXYMay 12, 2009
That may appear to be misleading, for I am not actually saying that the dish is delicious. Mind you, I don’t recall ever having tried Argentinian food in my life. Ever. Which is strange, because I do get adventurous every once in a while with my food. Perhaps it is delicious, perhaps it isn’t. Much like a film review (hah!), I suppose it depends largely on one’s tastebuds, and how destroyed it has been by years of curry abuse. But I digress.
I wasn’t talking about the food.
I was talking about the irony and the metaphor that I am very sure was incredibly deliberate in this scene. You see, ‘XXY’ is a title that doesn’t really explain much as to what the film is about, unless you’re well-versed in medical and/or genetic lingo. Apart from the obvious thing that jumped to mind (I admit I thought of porn: what did you think of?), I almost literally had no idea as to what the film is about as my teacher popped it into the DVD player. The DVD box synopsis is also in Spanish, from which I can discern almost immediately that the story is about a young girl and her parents having some problem. “That seems pretty normal,” I thought to myself.
I couldn’t be further from the truth. ‘XXY’ tells the story of a fifteen year-old girl named Alex (Ines Efron) who, as it turns out, is actually a boy. Or not. Alex is an intersex person, someone born with both male and female genitals. Since young, he (she?) has been using medicines to suppress her masculine features, but she stops taking them for a while.
It is a cause for concern for her parents, Nestor Kraken (Ricardo Darin) and Suli (Valeria Bertuccelli). Nestor is a marine biologist, and they invite some friends from Argentina to stay with them for the summer. They bring along their son, Alvaro (Martin Piroyansky), who Alex takes an interest in. They embark on an awkward journey of sexual discovery, causing more concern for Nestor. When people of the town slowly but surely got wind of Alex’s issue, it causes even more problems for them.
So now you can see why I thought the irony and the metaphor was absolutely delicious. The mother had been discussing with her friend as to what to do with Alex. Ultimately, a choice must be made, I suppose. That is the premise of the film, and as she cut the carrots, she accidentally cut into her finger, causing a wound. It bleeds, it hurts, it suggests what might happen, the kind of hurt that would be caused, by cutting off Alex’s male genatalia (to put it in a a low-brow, crude manner. Forgive me).
This scene actually followed on immediately from a scene where Alex’s father is in deep conversation with a gas station attendant. He had been ‘checking him out’ from afar from the earlier scenes, but now we know why. The attendant himself had also gone through the same thing, and it was something that the father wanted to know. Of course, you couldn’t get what it is that you want if you weren’t sure what it is that you know to begin with. Throughout the conversation, he fumbled a few times, dropping the ball when he couldn’t really decide whether to call his daughter a girl or a boy.
Never forget, though, where the main perspective is at. We are constantly reminded of the difficulty of Alex’s condition, and their consequences. It is hammered home what Alex’s condition is like, and of the difficulties that she goes through. Some of the more harrowing scenes include the local boys harassing her, wanting to find out what the fuss is all about. It is almost like watching a rape scene. No, quite frankly, it is like watching a rape scene. Know how that feels like? That’s the level of discomfort that the film reaches for, and achieves half of the time.
I do, however, have two big issues with the film. Issues, rather than problems. I struggle to understand why it has taken them all this while to confront the issue. Yes, Alex is now at an age where she is discovering herself, and decisions must ultimately be made. And yes, it is not exactly an easy issue to tackle. Nevertheless, they’ve had pretty much 15 years of practice, didn’t they? It struck me as strange that after 15 years, Alex’s parents are still finding it difficult to look at the issue. One case in point is one of the examples I mentioned above, when Nestor couldn’t even make up his mind as to whether he should say he or she when discussing Alex. Once again, not an easy issue, but one that I would have expected the parents to have more confidence in when discussing. It flies in the face of the logic and the tension that is built up.
Which leads nicely to the next issue: the tension. Dammit, it permeates almost every cut of every scene, and it renders the film almost totally, utterly humourless. Of course, one could argue that there’s nothing too wrong with that. But quite frankly, I want change. I want difference. I am the kind of guy who, if I sit through three high-quality, artistic movies back to back, I might well enjoy certain aspects of the films, like the acting, the scriptwriting…but I’d be bored out of my bloody mind. I can’t stress enough how much I tried not to fall asleep throughout this film. Since it basically banged on the same issue over and over again, endlessly and without respite, I can almost guess the subsequent scenes. I can imagine the reactions before they occur. That’s not to say that it’s bad, but it is to say that, quite frankly, it can be utterly boring.
So…should you watch this film? I suppose that depends on how much of a stake you would have in such films. It may or may not appeal to your political, social, religious or sexual leanings, but I do believe that you really need to be in the mood for it.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t. Delicious though the irony was.
Fikri wished his teacher would show porn instead in class.