As an ensemble drama that examines relationships amidst thirty-somethings in New York City, "X/Y," the second feature from Ryan Piers Williams, is a small film that packs a huge emotional wallop, fueled by raw, intimate performances and an authentic screenplay to create a mosaic of lost souls floundering within a sea of lust and loneliness.
The characters use sex as their primary form of communication and treat vulnerability as a form of social taboo, refusing to discuss their feelings with one another as if confusion and inexplicable moments of depression are traits that they should be ashamed of.
In addition to writing and directing the film, Williams stars with his real life spouse, America Ferrera ("Ugly Betty"), as Mark and Sylvia, a couple who have been together for years but still have difficulty connecting with one another, resulting in Mark moving out of their apartment in the opening scene. Melonie Diaz ("Fruitvale Station") is Sylvia’s sister Jen, who’s consistently on the lookout for a male companion, but prioritizes sex over more intimate forms of romantic interaction, and Jon Paul Phillips plays a model/DJ who’s crippled by a break-up with his girlfriend of five years.
The film is divided into four sections, each from an individual character’s point of view (starting with Mark and ending with Sylvia), providing an empathetic portrayal for all of their perspectives. At times, these people are far from likable, but their flaws are all too relatable to brush off. Williams compassionately analyzes how human beings react in regards to their traumas that stem from failed relationships; his vignettes are as insightful as they are emotionally resonant when it comes to their themes on love, intimacy and connection.
"X/Y" may be painful to sit through at times, but it’s a passionate and undeniably powerful piece of work, hitting all of the right notes within its exploration on the complexities of romance that Paul Haggis’ latest film, "Third Person," attempted, with an embarrassing thud, to flesh out. "X/Y" may be smaller in scale and feature a less identifiable cast, but that’s what makes it so authentic: Its unflinching approach to sensitivity in how it treats its characters as human beings, not pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.