I was just about to start writing this review from my notes and I thought “when did I see xXx in the festival?” then I realised, this film is about a fifteen year old girl and her relationship with her parents, her friends, and her would-be lovers.
Yet it's so much more than that, the story is about prejudice and confusion and how it can come from even the most unlikeliest of places. It's about the confusion of being young, the hatred and denial of things we don't understand, and so much more.
What it's really about, and something that is revealed slowly by the characters themselves rather than some engineered plot line, is the fact that the fifteen year old girl has a medical condition which confuses and angers all around her, and so yet no one really takes the time to understand her feelings and help her with the pain and confusion that she is carrying every second.
The girl is played by Inés Efron and delivers a touching performance of a girl that is carrying so much guilt and confusion and an almost hatred for herself that is threatening to consume her. From all those around her she's facing additional selfish pressures.
Her mother, her father, her two suitors, friends, and those that know about her secret all have their own questions, desires, curiosity and harmful intentions directed towards her, and throughout she seems like a passenger to all these intentions.
It's a beautifully told story which is very touching and feels very real. I suppose a lot of this is to do with the way we are introduced into the girl, her story and the secret, and this is one of the reasons I'm not revealing it to you now. If you are going to see it and don't yet know, then the reveal is handled so well by the characters involved with the story as we meet them that it gently brings us to it through their eyes.
I do think that if we'd gone in knowing from the opening moment or if the reveal was a sudden plot device then the audience would have been far less connected to the personal side of the story and the characters. The secret itself would have become a barrier between us and the real story.
The father is also very well played by Ricardo Darín who I last saw in El Aura (The Aura) (Filmstalker Review), and once again he delivers a powerful performance. Here though he's much more emotive than El Aura.
It's easy to feel empathy for both the father and the girl, and their differing confusions. The father's best moment is when he meets someone who has gone through the same problems as his daughter. This is perhaps one of the most emotive and moving moments there is and it's all played so low key and so real. You really do empathise and connect with the character at this point.
The other characters portray the differing pressures that the daughter is subjected to, there are those that think they are helping such as her mother and father, some who are curious as is the visiting boy and some who are vindictively evil such as the local boys who threaten her.
What's interesting is that some of these feelings come from the most unlikely of places, such as the father and the curiosity and voyeurism even he shows when he spies his daughter with the visiting boy.
The film is directed very subtlety and tenderly with scenes such as the two girls showering not showing the slightest hint of anything other than young innocence. It's a testament to how well the material is handled by both writer and director.
Even the scene with the daughter exploring her sexuality with the visiting boy is handled with great care, it doesn't take any obvious route and retains a tenderness that keeps the connection with the characters throughout.
It remains very open on a subject that would often encounter closed minds and biased views. The film doesn't take a preordained point of view, it doesn't restrict or restrain itself, and tells it from the characters hearts.
I'm not sure if the conclusion is entirely what I expected, but it does fit well with the reality of the film. It's still very open ended, although some decisions seem to have been taken.
The emotional journey for both father and daughter is very well portrayed and takes no sides for a very non-judgemental story, unlike the other characters in the film.
The story is filled with believable characters and a strong, real script with some great performances. Nothing is “normal” in this moving and thought provoking story.