London Food & Culture

A Deal with the Universe review: ‘a truly emotional rollercoaster’

Don't miss this hugely absorbing British doc about transgender parenting

The final soliloquy in Brit Jason Barker’s heartfelt debut documentary, which covers 15 years, could well be the most powerful thing you’ll see on screen this year (and it’s already been a strong year for LGBT+ movies).

And yet the 80 minutes preceding it are a truly emotional rollercoaster, not about what it means to be a trans parent – and not even what it means to be lesbian, gay or bisexual – but what it is to be alive, in all its messy, uncoordinated, unplannable ridiculousness.

In fact, A Deal With The Universe is, I’d argue, one of the most personal chronicles ever recorded of becoming a parent.

Drawing on the filmed home video diaries and personal archives made over the last decade-and-a-half, documenting both Jason’s transgender and his parental journey, its insights into gender identity and the trials of parenthood are unparalleled.


It’s an authentically honest look at a couple who desperately want a family, a story of “grief and longing”; but, with its laugh-out-loud moments about the quotidian of daily life, a deep sense of authorship is the driving force.

The central ‘deal’ is poignant, while the footage, all pebbly beach walks and sunsets in Whitstable – with plenty of Hackney tower block realness for contrast – adds to the film’s weight; and, as it’s set over most of this century, it has the thwack of a Linklater movie, but more impactful as a true story.

By the end you’ll want to high-five hugely likeable partners Jason and Tracey; the latter shines as the extremely good-humoured wife who endures her own battles. I can’t wait to see what Jason Barker does next.

A Deal With the Universe, released on 12th April, with Q&A screenings (8th April, Clapham Picturehouse, 9th Curzon Bloomsbury, 13th Picturehouse Central & The Kiln, Kilburn, 17th Regent St). More showtimes here.

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