I’ve seen the movie XX/XY in bits and pieces over the past year or two on cable movie stations, but it always comes on late so I tend to catch some fragment from the middle of the movie before going to bed. I’ve found those nuggets intriguing, so it was nice to finally get to see the whole thing recently.
The movie holds particular resonance to me since the main characters are portrayed as young adults in 1993, restless and confused about sex and love, and then flashes forward a decade into the future and how their past relationship impacts them. I was 25-26 back then, probably a few years older than their characters were, but I also had some pretty complicated and confusing romantic relationships that had a pretty big impact on me years later. I’m sure most people can relate to one degree or another
In the beginning of the movie Coles and Sam meet at a party after noticing each other earlier in the day on the subway. The party is right out of my past– in a city apartment, dark and sparsely furnished, party-goers drenched in an alcohol buzz, Sonic Youth playing in the background. Drunk guys and girls circle around each other, looking for the chemical attraction that could provide a night of sexual bliss and maybe more. The chameleon Mark Ruffalo plays Coles, darkly handsome, brooding and creative (he’s an animator), the kind of guy women fall head over heels for before they find out just how many hang-ups and flaws he has. Maya Stange plays Sam, Coles’ victim of the heart, and Kathleen Robertson plays Thea, Maya’s roommate. Sam and Coles are instantly drawn to one another, and yet Thea also has a connection with each of them that is deep and complicated and muddies the waters considerably.
Mark Ruffalo as Coles
I thought the acting was subtle and top-notch; none of the characters come across as trite or stereotypical, and yet each of them were recognizable in either yourself or someone you have known. I’ve like Ruffalo in nearly everything I’ve seen him in, and while he portrayed a truly flawed person, causing the most emotional collateral damage out of all the characters, you can’t help but feel for the guy, to hope and pray he gets his act together before he hurts someone else or himself further. A less nuanced performance would have flattened Coles into just another asshole, but Ruffalo and the writing/directing makes him much more complicated and thus, empathetic.
- Maya Stange as Sam
Maya Stange’s Sam is quietly lovely and demur (especially alongside Thea’s flamboyancy), and I found her Sam to be incredibly appealing and sexy; in real life I would have totally fallen for her character and have been heartbroken by her self-destructive relationship with the asshole Coles. Sam is like a moth to a flame, as cheesy as that sounds, drawn helplessly into Coles’ web of heartbreak. I can’t help but wonder why Maya Stange isn’t in more films, I thought she did a great job and she’s quite pretty in a non-cookie-cutter way.
Kathleen Robertson as Thea
Kathleen Robertson’s Thea was quite interesting. Brash and overtly sexual, Robertson also adds a nice subtle layer of depth to Thea in what could have otherwise just been a stereotypical sidekick party girl. Early on, she’s kicking around with this shy and nerdy guy that’s obviously dazzled by this sexy wild child’s apparent interest, using him for company and such. Drunk off her ass, she ends up screwing somebody else on the floor right in front of this nerdy guy, and she later tries to apologize to him. When the guy, whom we (and likely she) expects to totally swallow her lame ass apology and continue on as they were, instead does something totally unexpected, we would guess a character like Thea to pout or get angry; however, Robertson’s Thea takes it, and we can see a range of emotions playing over her face as she realizes, not only that she totally deserved it, but all the other implications of that selfish and reckless moment the night before, and those emotions play across her face. It’s a Moment, one of life’s plot points that changes someone at a fundamental level.
See this movie if you haven't already!
It’s a testament to the writer and director that the end of the movie doesn’t tie things up in a bright and happy bow (ah, the freedom of indie films!). Love and sex can make humans do stupid things, and often times those stupid things resonate years and years down the road. Even so, the movie doesn’t leave you feeling desolate and empty like other films that explore similar themes. You’re left with a sense that life moves on, and you make of it what you can mistakes and all.
Ruffalo’s character sums it up well at one point, when describing why his movie-making career didn’t take off. He says that, in the beginning, you have all these great ideas and there are all these exciting possibilities for the film you envision. Yet, step by step, as you make choices those possibilities fall away until you’re left with all the decisions you’ve made to get to the place you are, and by implication all the possibilities that won’t come to pass because of those decisions end up haunting you. The excitement of possibility dwindles with each choice made until its all gone. It’s a metaphor for relationships, and reveals the hard emotional work it takes to build lasting relationships. Ruffalo’s character is distracted and crippled by all the roads not taken instead of being satisfied with the choices he made and the path he’s on.
I highly recommend this movie for anyone looking for a well-acted movie about the complexity of sex, love, and relationships. It’s well put-together and thought provoking, and the leads are all very easy on the eyes. And please– let me know what you thought of it in the comments!
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