Updated: Apr 30, 2020
Directed by: #KseniaIvanova
The marriage between Jack and Anna, a young couple living in 1913’s Colorado, is threatened when a man from the past re-emerges with a shocking truth about Jack’s past. That he is, in fact, a woman named Helen. This revelation soon sees the couple in court, fighting hopelessly against societies intolerance and for their rights as a gay couple.
Writer/director Ksenia Ivanova came across the true story of Jack and Anna and immediately felt a strong connection to the protagonist, Helen. Which she attributes to growing up in a country with its own fair share of prejudices and intolerances (Russia). So, feeling inspired to “shed light on these issues” (of feminism and gay rights), Ivanova was compelled to craft this beautiful little film, which explores the fluidity, and power, of love.
Kate Smith and Brookelyn Hebert star in the lead roles of Jack/Helen and Anna respectively. And the actresses’ emotionally charged and electric performances mean we’re immediately drawn to them as people, but more importantly, as a believable couple. They’re both genuinely terrific performances that are worthy of every accolade the actresses inevitably have coming to them as the film runs through the festival circuit. And while all displays of acting are of high calibre, it’s Smith’s and Hebert’s that really embodies the very heart of the movie’s central theme.
The rights of the LGBTQ community and equality for women have been, and sadly still are, hot topics for debate. What Ivanova strives to achieve with Jack and Anna is linking the events of the past, to the climate of the present in contemplation of society’s progress on these issues. Are we really the tolerant people we think we are? And, in the last 100+ years, have things really changed that much? Also, there’s an examination of the basic fundamentals of humanity: of our capacity to endure so much pain and still bounce back from it stronger than we were before.
While the sublime character and narrative writing is the linchpin of the film, we also need to talk a little about the technical aspects of the movie. Featuring an almost all-female crew, which is itself a delight to see, Jack and Anna has been brilliantly put together by a team of people clearly passionate about the project. Madelyn Momano’s cinematography brings to life the world our cast inhabits with its superb framing and exquisite colour palette and locations. While the costume design by Courtney Buoy is second to none, easily rivalling that of many big-budget productions and bringing to full realisation the early 20th-century aesthetics. Top it off with a suitably melancholic soundtrack (scored by Ryan Krause), and you have something more akin to a piece of art than anything else.
To give Jack and Anna anything less than a 5-star rating would be a travesty: proof of one’s own petty cynicism and intolerance. There’s really nothing here not to like, and so much to love. It’s heartbreaking, tragic and poignant, and yet, somehow, uplifting. My only complaint is that it’s not feature-length, and that’s really more of a compliment anyway. I wish it all the best as it completes its festival run, but I have no doubt it will clean up wherever it’s shown. Jack and Anna will release online in December 2020, and I’ll be supporting it in whichever way I can.