It is rare to find a story about genuine friendship set against a topical issue which doesn’t feel clouded in doom and gloom. Finding a story such as this, especially in this cinematic climate, is not only a joy to watch but is an insight into what it means to be transgender.
Having grown up next door to each other, Jack and Yaya, now officially named Christina, share a friendship that is both precious and just like any other close friendship. From the minute they met, when Jack and his family moved next door to Yaya’s, they knew they’d be friends for life. The connection they shared, the feeling that they were both ‘freaks’, despite family and friends seeing them as who they are, two friends who are so much fun to be around. After 30 years of friendship Jack travels back to New Jersey to celebrate with Yaya and their families, sharing stories, reminiscing and having fun being themselves. As Jack goes through major points in his transition to administering daily injections needed, Yaya finally changes her name by deed poll, a step she had been anxious to make.
What separates Jack and Yaya’s story from others exploring the same subject matter, is the wealth of positivity and genuine support that they have from family and each other’s families. They are one huge unit of love and friendship that resonates throughout the film as both friends go on their journey of transitioning. Both Jack and Yaya had difficulty and heartbreak when they came out and at first, had problems with a few family members when they came out as trans, but over time and many talks, the determination from both Jack and Yaya who each have their own hurdles to overcome, they are lucky to have such a strong and supportive network, which I’m sure a lot of other trans men and women don’t have.
Directors Mary Hewey and Jen Bagley have documented and created a beautiful story about friendship and a positive view of being transgender that is very much needed in the negative climate. The use of family videos from when Jack & Yaya were young, as well as the extensive archive of photos from every aspect of their lives, is woven into the film and paints an intimate picture that you feel privileged to be apart of the story. If there are more stories like Jack & Yaya’s out there, we’d like to see them. A positive film overall, that doesn’t in anyway gloss over the hard parts of their journey but gives hope that there are happy endings out there that we should all see.
Dir: Mary Hewey, Jen Bagley
Prd: Mary Hewey, Jen Bagley
DoP: Jen Bagley
Music: Matthew Connor
Running time: 83 mins