Combustible Celluloid
With: n/a
Written by: n/a
Directed by: Jen Bagley, Mary Hewey
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 84
Date: 06/19/2020

Jack & Yaya (2020)

3 Stars (out of 4)

No Fences

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Arriving just in time for Pride Month, Jennifer Bagley's documentary Jack & Yaya tells the lovely, down-to-earth story of two next-door neighbors who met as toddlers through the back yard fence. They became fast friends, their bond eventually rooted in the fact that they are both transgender.

Available on demand (see here for details), the loose, relaxed movie takes place as Jack, who was born "Jacqueline," travels home from Boston for the Fourth of July holiday. He chats comfortably for the camera, telling warm stories of his coming out and his transitioning.

Yaya — her stage name as a drag performer — was born "Christopher" and is in the middle of the long, complicated process of legally changing her name to Christina. She tells her story while expertly applying her complex makeup regimen.

When the friends reunite, thirty years after their first meeting, Jack & Yaya can't really find much depth. The heart of the movie — the ways in which they must have helped each other out during their childhoods — is left unsaid.

Instead the movie simply watches them as they and their families picnic, swim, and watch football. People are forever cooking, and Pearl Jam posters seem to adorn every wall. Occasionally old photos or home videos provide more backdrop.

One lovely moment shows Jack snuggling up to Yaya in a hot tub, and she responds by leaning her head on him and shutting her eyes.

Later, she comes to help when Jack has a hysterectomy and must move as little as possible while recovering. Their bond may be unspoken, but it's clearly deep.

Additionally, the family members — a bunch of colorful South Jersey characters right out of a reality show — are interviewed. They're a lovable bunch, with not an iota of judgment or prejudice among them.

Maybe that's why Jack & Yaya strikes one as more of a good film than a great one. It plays like a home movie, largely without conflict, and where touching moments seem to happen accidentally.

But on the plus side, perhaps this unassuming, pleasant movie is just the kind of thing that people who are horrified over restroom labeling need to learn that transgender folks are just like anyone else.

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