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xx/xy (2003)

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xx/xy is a modern tragedy that thrills as it kills. I was amazed with how utterly provocative and honest this movie was to its subjects, its victims, and ultimately, its audience.

This movie tells the story of three friends who experiment with each other in the ways of love and sex in college. Ten years later, they find that their experiences have not only haunted them, but have also bound them–tragically so. The more they try to escape their carefree lives of yesteryear, the more they are drawn to each other.

Unfortunately, nothing in their present-day lives allows for them to exercise that spirit of destructive authentcity that first united them a decade before in college. As adults, they find themselves trapped by their circumstances in tragic lives of inauthentic formalities and unreasonable expectations. Austin Chick’s movie stands for the almost-unbearable proposition that what once was found has now been lost.

The relationship between Coles and Sam is the most heart-wrenching that I have seen since that of Ben and Sera in Mike Figgis’ Leaving Las Vegas (1994). We sense a certain sado-masochism at play: When Sam finds out that Coles has slept with another girl, she goes and sleeps with another guy to get back at him. And yet the outcome of this sadistic power-play is a strengthening of their relationship–for they force each other to recognize the power each has over the other’s heart. It is through pain that they show their love for each other. And certainly this is not absurd or nonsensical, for the people we love are also the people most capable of hurting us. In Coles’ and Sam’s logic of love, the one who can most hurt is also the one who is most loved.

Mark Ruffalo delivers a breakthrough performance as the engimatic yet sensitive Coles, while Maya Stange is perfect as the sweet and emotional Sam. Together, they have a chemistry rarely seen on screen that just oozes with the rough kind of passion that the story demands. This dark movie was meant for these two bright lights.

“There is no room for honesty in a healthy relationship,” Coles laments at one pivotal point in the movie. Exactly so. Honesty isn’t reserved for healthy relationships, but rather for full ones–those that encompass the pain as well as the pleasure, and the hate as well as the love; those that take life as it is, warts and all. For this reason, the end of the movie, tragic as it may be, could not have been any other way. It is precisely this sincerity of storytelling that makes this one of the best movies of the year.

I’d give Austin Chick’s xx/xy an A.

[See this author’s blog at Unfashionable Observations.]
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