Movie Review – ‘Jack & Yaya’: A Beautiful Journey of Two Transgender FriendsJune 20, 2020
A heartwarming story of friendship and love, Jack & Yaya invites the viewer to share the journey of two lifelong friends as they navigate through their transition, personal growth, pain, family relationships, and more.
This wonderful journey involves Jack and Christina ( aka Yaya ) who met as young children. Growing up in South Jersey, the two families shared a backyard fence, which in turn became a way for the two to communicate and start them on their journey to becoming friends, building a very strong bond that is clearly evident as you watch this documentary. The long road of transitioning was made easier by this friendship and many years later, they are still the best of friends.
Growing up, both Jack, who was born Jacqueline, and Yaya, formerly Christopher, knew they were different. Director Jennifer Bagley does a great job in showing the confusion and heartache for both while at the same time, not playing it up for sympathy. It is real life and Bagley makes sure the viewer feels that with great moments with both Jack and Yaya, separately and together, that make it truly feel like a documentary and not a fluff piece or movie of the week.
The film addresses the topic of coming out very well, both personally and with the respective families. While both families are now loving and supportive, it was not that way in the beginning, made even more difficult but the confusion as coming out as transgender and not just simply gay. It was wonderful and remarkable to see the change in attitude over time to the point that the families are there for each other, for both Jack and Yaya, just as they are for one another.
Thankfully, the director balances the struggles and success very well, making sure we as the audience see both sides of what they are both going through. For example, we watch Jack struggle with the decision to go forward with a very important surgery and Yaya in her struggles in terms of trying to change her name. Both are different kinds of challenges but still challenges, and how they cope, struggle, and deal with them is a journey in itself.
The film does not sugar coat the fact that while the families are on board and very supportive now, wonderful love and affection shown by many family members, it is still an ugly, mean and unfair world out there. Homophobic and transphobic comments are not uncommon, as is just the usual stereotypical behavior you would expect from people who lash out at things they simply don’t understand or don’t care to understand.
Jack & Yaya is truly a wonderful, refreshing, and honest look at two lifelong friends that support each other through the similar struggles they are going through. Friendship, family, and love shine brightly, and although the darker side is shown as well, giving the film a nice balance, nothing says it better than this line in the film, that being “all you need is fricking love”.
Four stars out of five