Jackie
Written by Marnie Blok and Karen van Holst Pellekaan
Directed by Antoinette Beumer
Starring Holly Hunter and Carice and Jelka van Houten

In English and Dutch (with English Subtitles)
Distributed by Tribeca Film

Reviewed by Mark Dickerson

     Jackie is a well-acted film with beautiful cinematography shot mostly in New Mexico, with an intriguing and unconventional take on adoption-related issues. The movie stars Carice and Jelka van Houten, real-life Dutch sisters, as twins Sofie and Daan, who go in search of “Jackie,” the surrogate mother they never knew, played with intensity and gusto by Holly Hunter. Jackie is an appealing and touching story, but is not without frustrations.
     The film opens in The Netherlands when one of the sisters receives a call from a hospital in rural New Mexico. She had been tracked down from names on the back of a photograph of the twins as children found in the wallet of the seemingly mute Jackie. The sisters, now in their 30s, have been brought up by Harm (Jaap Spijkers), their biological father and Marcel (Paul Hoes), his husband in a same-sex marriage.
     The two men are portrayed as benevolent and supportive, but a possible effect of children raised only by members of the opposite sex is explored, which in the case of the two daughters is expressed by their polar opposite personalities: blonde-haired Daan (Jelka) has had fantasies of a mother her whole life, and also remains strangely infantilized into adulthood—she doesn’t yet have a driver’s license and relies on her husband, Joost (Jeroen Spitzenberger), to run her life. Dark-haired Sofie (Carice), on the other hand, doesn’t want to know their biological mother and, a slave to her ambition in business, is angry and cold, seemingly intent on stamping out any sign of emotion and vulnerability within herself. These extremes become the starting points for growth as the sisters take on the journey to America, with Sofie brought along kicking and screaming.
     The first meeting with Jackie destroys any superficial expectations the girls may have had. Standing with mouths agape and flowers in hand, Jackie greets them with bizarre and unpredictable behavior—ignoring them, not speaking to them, appearing to flee on crutches, her right leg encased in a hip-to-foot cast, exploding in rage—leaving the sisters to wonder if Jackie may be psychotic! The light touch of the director, and the eccentric portrayal by Hunter, bring off this potentially heartbreaking reunion with an undercurrent of humor. The sisters then go on a road trip they didn’t bargain for as Jackie demands to be taken to the destination in her “home”—a dilapidated RV apparently broken down by the railroad tracks out in the middle of the desert!
     The trip through spectacular New Mexico vistas becomes the canvas for an inner journey as the girls must grapple with their predicament with Jackie, who is always a handful, their sometimes very personal yearnings for a mother, and their own wrong turns in life. As they get better acquainted with Jackie, there are many moments between the three that are touching and revealing about their inner longings and loss.
     Now for the frustrating part: for me the plot itself crashes along in a nonsensical way at times after such a winning start. This is especially true as things build towards a perceived happy ending. In a very short period of time, insights, redemption, connection, breakthroughs, awakenings, transformations, etc., come fast and furious as the plot gratuitously tries to tear our heart strings out. However, during the time when I felt the urge to walk out, others were crying and cheering, so other viewers may see it differently. There is an unusual plot twist at the end that I won’t reveal; I leave viewers to work out the meaning on their own.
     Though this is an unconventional reunion story, adoptees, birth mothers and others who wound up in families by unconventional means, will likely identify with the sense of loss and longing exhibited here, as well as the inner journey the sisters undertake. The aspects of the movie I’ve complained about may just be a matter of taste.
     Though widely distributed in Europe, Jackie lacks a U.S. distributor and had only limited availability locally (at The Guild in Albuquerque and the Santa Fe Center for Contemporary Arts during May). It is nonetheless available to download from iTunes (https://itunes.apple.com/ us/movie/jackie/id642013482), as well as to view on Xfinity On Demand ($7.99) (until 7/8/13), and to rent on Amazon Instant Video ($6.99 for three-day rental), and Vudu.com ($6.99-$7.99). No DVD release date is known.

Published in the July 2013 edition of the Operation Identitiy Newsletter
© 2013 Operation Identity