XXY: Hold On to Your Genitals

On the remote Uruguayan seaside, Alex's parents have sequestered their daughter, hoping to keep her secret hidden from the world. That secret is a "difference," betrayed in Alex's sketchbook of Henry Darger–esque hermaphrodites: S/he's intersexed, gender-unarticulated at birth. And now as puberty encroaches, a reconstructive surgeon with his teenage son in tow penetrates the family's metaphor-clogged hideaway for a "friendly visit" with significant undertones. The looming decision of gender assignment presses on everyone's every waking moment, especially Alex's papa (Ricardo Darín), who's always disconsolately strolling into scenes (including one with an accidental sighting of his daughter reaming her new bend-over boyfriend). It takes a controlling hand to chisel something more contoured than monotony out of this dense angst, and director Lucía Puenzo doesn't have it, though Inés Efron as Alex gives a committed centerpiece performance with a nice, slightly lupine grin. But the monomaniacal concentration upon Alex's choice—with the teased-at possibility of a genital money shot the film's structuring absence—leaves little room for anything more. And so a late character-developing father-son chat by the houseguests ("I was afraid you were a fag") is too abrupt to entirely skirt accidental comedy—as is Puenzo's choice to open a scene with a portentous close-up of a carrot being diced.

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