Dir. Austin Chick
Mark Ruffalo, Maya Stange, Kathleen Robertson, Petra Wright
XX/XY, Austin Chick's directorial debut, tells a familiar story: being young, reckless, feeling like and acting as though nothing has consequences - and then growing older, and learning to deal with the consequences of one's actions. Wannabe artist Coles (Mark Ruffalo) meets Sam (Maya Stange) at a party at Sarah Lawrence, and Sam invites along punk grrl Thea (Kathleen Robertson) for a menage a trois. And so begins a classic relationship of youth, prodigal, profligate, promiscuous, and seemingly aconsequential - until the heartbreak when Coles reveals to Sam he has had a one-night stand.
Ten years later, all three parties find themselves back in New York, somewhat altered by the passage of time. Thea now is the wife of a successful restauranteur, Sam has just returned from London, and Coles has given up filmmaking for advertising. And it is Coles' chance reunion with Sam that triggers off all sorts of conflicts in their respective lives, both of which seem to be merely drifting along. Coles' relationship with Claire (Petra Wright, in a fine performance), his live-in girlfriend of five years, may feel to him and others like a marriage, but he remains perpetually unable to commit to anything, always leaving his options open - at a crucial confrontation, Claire points out "You still haven't chosen me. You're settling for me." Sam, on her part, has just broken off an engagement in London to come back. And the subsequent reentanglement of their lives gives them an emotional push: indeed, the light that streams into Coles' spacious flat or into the Hampton resort of the final scenes feels like an airing compared to the flourescent-lit dark parties of their youth.
XX/XY doesn't judge its characters on the excesses of their youth or the compromises in their aging. Chick's flick takes it all in, showing the inevitable emotional effects of actions, but also showing that the transition from the halcyon days of youth can be surprisingly achievable: Robertson manages to capture the idea that Thea's position as restauranteur's muse is simply an extension of her spirit, rather than any sort of deadening or 'selling out'.
Ruffalo's turn as the central man is not without its minor flaws - his awkward look during confrontations had too much of an Ashton-Kutcher-trying-to-look-pensive feel to it for my taste - but he captures the sense of a man always looking for something better, oblivious to the consequences of that sort of behaviour on others. Always afraid to pin himself down to one thing because he's afraid of compromising (the same reason he left film), always afraid to comit, Coles appears callous to others in his youth, but ends up, as the film shows, hurting himself more in the end.
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