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XX+XY - BFI Flare

average rating is 5 out of 5


Amber Jackson


Posted on:

Mar 21, 2023

Film Reviews
XX+XY - BFI Flare
Directed by:
Soh-Yoon Lee
Written by:
Sung-Yeun Hong
Hyun-Ho Ahn, Woo-Sung Choi, Ji-in Kim

A light-hearted and incredibly sweet coming-of-age story, XX+XY is a Korean feature-length film about an intersex teenager who must navigate the trials and tribulations of adolescence. Whilst there is a deeply relatable insight into the awkwardness and pubescent dilemmas, the film demonstrates to the viewer how protagonist Jay (they/them) has a more difficult time joining a new school as an intersex person. With the support of childhood best friend, Sera, and a growing new friendship with popular boy, Wooram, this trio become embroiled in an intense love triangle. Much like any other teen comedy-drama, but with plenty of unique twists, this is a fresh and funny uplifting film that provides much positive intersex representation.


With classic protagonist narration and animated cartoons to help drive the story, we are introduced to Jay, who is the loveliest protagonist and a very reliable narrator. They are able to take clear ownership over their narrative and guide the viewer through each scene with agency and insight into how they experience daily life. They, along with Sera and Wooram, are portrayed brilliantly on screen with equal parts comedic and moving dialogue that is not too cheesy, but is instead rather powerful. Jay is immediately accepted into the student body and is popular with everyone and delights in being included. It is refreshing to see a high school film open to exploring both sexuality and gender binaries in a positive and affirming way. Jay’s family, too, is open and a very progressive unit which is a very positive change to see a LGBTQIA+ character unaffected by familial trauma and instead is celebrated and vibrantly accepted by both family and friends. Despite moments where key characters doubt themselves, ultimately teenage struggles are handled delicately and with sensitivity and without consequence.


Despite overwhelmingly good support from their family, the viewer begins to realise that Jay is experiencing plenty of inner turmoil. Not only have they started high-school and are experiencing the stresses of a typical teenager, but they are also handling physical changes like puberty and menstruation for the first time. The film very gently handles these moments from the perspective of an intersex person and how Jay feels as though they must make a choice at some stage to live either as male or as female. These binary distinctions provide the main source of conflict throughout XX+XY and the issues are explored in an easily accessible way for its audience, as well as highlighting the experiences of young intersex people.


Being very well filmed, this film looks very light and bright on camera and every character is followed closely. What is prevalent throughout are the uncomfortable and upsetting moments that Jay experiences because they are intersex and the camera really examines this. The film focuses on them feeling as though it is impossible to ‘choose their preferred gender,’ which is handled like a type of gender dysphoria. There are many honest discussions within the film concerning sexuality, gender identity and gender expression without conflating them. What is refreshing about the angle that XX+XY takes is that every theme is handled completely openly and honestly, but without resorting to shame. It is a wonderfully positive and educational perspective from the perspective of somebody intersex.


Jay’s journey through high school feels like a very real-to-life experience, with many of their classmates able to be themselves and act like typical teenagers. There are plenty of laugh out loud and uncomfortable moments, yet also scenes that express real tenderness and kindness. Through this, however, the film is able to comment on a lack of awareness about intersex people, as well as the dangers of internet trolling and bullying. Through this type of exposure, XX+XY is able to show that no one should be forced to live within gender binaries and can exist by their own definition.


XX+XY has all of the innocence of adolescence whilst also pointing to actual situations and struggles that LGBTQIA people handle on a daily basis. Screenwriter Sung-Yeun Hong has included the perfect balance between comedy and drama into Jay’s storyline and each scene feels real and emotive, as well as providing heart-wrenching character arcs. It successfully raises awareness of gender assumptions and the importance of community and safety. If you like shows like Heartstopper and Sex Education, or if you are a fan of K-dramas, then this is the film for you.


To find out more about The Stroll and other films featured at BFI Flare 2023, see the BFI website or read more of our BFI Flare coverage at

About the Film Critic
Amber Jackson
Amber Jackson
Indie Feature Film, World Cinema, Film Festival, LGBTQ+
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