'XXY' is a tender exploration of a young hermaphrodite’s journey into adolescence, as increased pressure from society is forcing her to decide her sexual identity.

Directed by Argentine filmmaker Lucía Puenzo, and based on Sergio Bizzio’s short story 'Cinismo', the film tackles the subject with sensitivity, without aiming to offer any definite outcomes.

Alex (Efron) is a temperamental 15-year-old, who has left Argentina with her mother and marine biologist father Kraken (Darín) for a Uruguayan shore to escape the prying eyes of those who wished to determine her sexuality. Even in this remote seaside town however, she cannot escape the curiosity of her neighbours.

Born with male and female genitalia, Alex has been living as a girl her whole life, undergoing hormone therapy to develop her female traits. Unexpectedly, she decides to stop taking the drugs, as she comes to realise she wishes to live as she is.

Her mother, concerned at this turn of events and wishing to explore the possibility of sex change surgery, invites renowned plastic surgeon Ramiro (Palacios) to their home to study Alex. His awkward son Alvaro (Prioyansky) and Alex begin a tentative relationship, challenging both sets of parents views of their children.

The film's most touching scenes delve into the relationships between Alex, Alvaro and their fathers. Almost wordless exchanges between Kraken and Alex underscore a deeper understanding, while Alvaro is repelled by his son’s ambiguous sexuality.

Kraken, protective and loving, seems to be the only one who sees what Alex wants, and is the most willing to let her live her life as she pleases.

Efron perfectly shows Alex's mixture of defiance and vulnerability in a film that does not contain much dialogue. Kraken is outstanding as her supportive father, while Alvaro is sweet and vulnerable. Puenzo handles the touchy subject with much care and sympathy, although with a slightly heavy hand. This sombre, moving drama resonates far beyond the closing credits.

Sarah McIntyre