A Deal with the Universe

 

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A unique document but one more valuable to some than to others.

 
Deal with the Universe, A

  

Here is a work that stands apart from other films on more than one level. It was made by Jason Barker who was born female but transitioned at the age of twenty-six. Having rejected a hysterectomy, he appears before us as a trans man who has now given birth to a son and, indeed, A Deal with the Universe looks back on the determined efforts of Jason and his partner Tracey to become parents. These two had met shortly before Jason's transition and initially the hope was that Tracey could have a child. However, Tracey was diagnosed with cancer and had a mastectomy and it was then that the couple switched to Plan B: Jason came off hormone medication and turned to IVF as the one who would if possible give birth.

 

If A Deal with the Universe had set out to tell this story with interviews and background information, it could have emerged as a standard documentary, albeit one handling unusual subject matter. However, that is not what we get here. Instead, we are given what is really a video diary without a commentary so that viewers are left to work out for themselves exactly what the set-up is (some details in my opening paragraph come not from the film but from the internet). The focus is entirely on these two individuals and their day-to-day endeavours and that results in a work that will have undoubted value for anyone who is in Jason's situation but offers much less to the general viewer. Just how uncommon it is for a trans man to give birth we never learn and it is left to song lyrics heard to pinpoint issues: after the question "Should I be a man or a woman - what does that really mean?" has been raised this way in a final song it goes on to proclaim "Do whatever the heck you want".

 

Presented in sections with titles that are less than illuminating and with inserts of unexplained stage appearances by Jason doing a stand-up turn, A Deal with the Universe can hardly be thought of as an example of good filmmaking. In passing, we see footage featuring cats and pigeons but it feels arbitrary and without any real function. Nevertheless, the film's amateurishness adds to its character. It comes across as rough and raw and is presented with admirable honesty as it reveals truthfully the strains felt by both Jason and Tracey. As such, it is a work relevant as being part of the social history of our times. But as presented its appeal is surely specialised, making it meaningful in a significant way to some yet lacking an approach that would make it a film to be recommended to those divorced from the situation depicted.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Featuring  Jason Barker, Tracey Barker.

 

Dir Jason Barker, Pro Loran Dunn, Screenplay by Jason Barker, Ed Rachel Meyrick, Music Hutch Demouilpied.

 

BFI/Sharp House/Delaval Film/Tigerlilly Productions-Peccadillo Pictures.
92 mins. UK. 2018. Rel: 12 April 2019. Cert. 15.