The potentially nauseating subgenre made up of movies by naval-gazing New Yorkers that do a deep dive on how complicated their relationships are have a somewhat limited audience for obvious reasons. It has never scared me personally away which is why I was more than willing to take on X/Y despite the fact that seemingly all of the press leading up to its release focused on America Ferrera’s sex scenes. Yes, we do get to see Common fornicate her inside a grungy NYC bathroom but I feel as though if that is the highlight of the show for you perhaps you are watching it the wrong way. What lies beneath its sweaty exterior is a raw and unflinching script that calls out both sides of the gender war for their inability to communicate and a constant need to feed their ego.
Ferrera plays Sylvia, a young, rich-ish urbanite whose life is rocked one night when an especially awful sexual encounter with boyfriend Mark causes her to spill the beans on a past infidelity. Upping the stakes, at least in the mind of viewers, is the fact that Mark is played by Ferrera’s real life husband and the writer/director of this project Ryan Piers Williams. The fight feels so real and so familiar one can only assume that he was drawing on their actual relationship for material. Anybody who has ever suffered through the final days of a broken relationship will recognize this portrayal of deteriorating love all too well. Mark splits and hits the road looking for some much needed fun and freedom while Sylvia stiff upper lips it and tries to carry on as though nothing had happened at all. X/Y never goes as dark as David Mamet’s Edmond but it does slant towards the same conclusion, chopping out the knees of unfettered male virility and exposing it as something close to fraud.
After we follow him and his misadventures for a bit we bounce from one of their friends to the next before we finally end with Sylvia. Williams point seems to be that the demons we thing we have buried have a funny way of infecting those around us with our insecurities and neuroses. Melonie Diaz plays Sylvia’s closest confidant Jen who spends her unemployed days sleeping with married men and hitting on baristas. When she sides with Mark to Sylvia’s face (not for her lack of morals but for the stupidity in telling Mark about it) it quickly exposes the differences between them and fragility of their friendship.
Seeing as how I felt an inherent kinship with these characters all I could really ask of this film is that it feel true to life, and it does. There are moments of silliness or overt sexuality that felt forced to me but I also recognize that my reality is not everyone’s reality. Ferrera is wrestling with some tough material here that she probably would have avoided if not for personal reasons and yet she still goes out there, gives it the old college try and emerges as a strong presence if nothing else. Much like the first season of Togetherness which just ended on HBO it is probably not wise to watch with your significant other because if your relationship has scabs this movie will find them and pick at them until you bleed.
Director: Ryan Piers Williams Writer: Ryan Piers Willaims Notable Cast: America Ferrera, Ryan Piers Williams, Melonie Diaz, Jon Paul Phillips, Common, Amber Tamblyn