on April 11, 2003 by Annlee Ellingson
   Mark Ruffalo (“You Can Count on Me”) returns to Sundance with a very different film from last year's Oscar-nominated feel-gooder. In “XX/XY,” he stars as Coles, a loser animator who starts a tumultuous romance with Sam (Amaya Stange) by participating in an ill-conceived threesome with her roommate Thea (Kathleen Robertson). The encounter ends badly, but Coles and Sam begin a tentative relationship with Thea's blessing. Bound by no concept of restraint, the couple revels in drugs and sex--not always with each other--culminating in a tryst between Coles and Thea while Sam watches.

   Ten years later, the trio reunites under drastically altered circumstances. Sam has returned to the city from a period of time abroad, having called off her engagement; Coles has cleaned up his act, made a film and lives with his girlfriend of five years, Claire (Petra Wright); and Thea is married to a restaurateur who has named his eatery after her. The trio attempts to reconnect as friends, but Coles can't get Sam out of his mind, driving him back to his old, selfish ways.

   Ostensibly a modern romance, “XX/XY” is instead an exercise in self-indulgence, both on the part of the characters and the filmmakers. These people repeatedly hurt one another and go back for more, and the audience is supposed to care about them? The only likable person is Claire, yet even she chooses to spend time with these jerks. While “XX/XY” has its moments of visual interest--mismatching the soundtrack with scenes and using a bathroom mirror as a device to split the screen--ultimately its characters are so self-centered, immature and ugly that one simply cannot empathize. Starring Mark Ruffalo, Kathleen Robertson, Maya Stange, Petra Wright, David Thornton and Kel O'Neill. Directed and written by Austin Chick. Produced by Mitchell B. Robbins, Isen Robbins and Aimee Schoof. Drama. An IFC release. Not yet rated. Running time: 91 min

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