A Kid Like Jake (2018), directed by Silas Howard and written by Daniel Pearle, really isn’t about the kid at all. In fact, if Leo James Davis, who plays the titular Jake, wasn’t in the film the story wouldn’t really be changed. While Jake is the center of the conflict in the story, the film focuses on his parents, Greg (Jim Parson) and Alex (Claire Danes), who are trying to choose a school for their son and are encouraged to embrace his affinity for fairytales and dress-up to help give them an edge in the private school application process. This idea raises concerns about gender roles and gender identity to Jake’s parents who had thought of his interests as nothing more than a passing phase he would likely grow out of.
A Kid Like Jake is a film that tackles a tough issue of modern parenting
Parson and Danes are an odd pairing. They have some chemistry, but the schism that arises between them feels inorganic. Their situation is a tough one and the right action for them to take is believable unclear. The question of “can a five-year-old know they’re the wrong gender?” that is the central issue of the film is one not easily answered. Regardless of if the question can be answered, the fact remains that the parents have to choose how to handle the situation and both directions have potential complications. Both parents have different opinions of what to do, but both act as though they aren’t educated professionals Alex, a former lawyer, and Greg, a therapist, who should at least be able to apply some basic communication skills. Of course, they’re human and capable of emotional outbursts, but most of the moments in the film feel out of place and contrived for the drama of the moment.
The film has some interesting visuals, but most of the story is conveyed through dialogue. This is likely a result of the screenplay being adapted from Pearle’s play. As noted earlier, we don’t really see Jake do much of anything. A few times, we see him in a gown or a toilet paper skirt, but most of the concerning actions are conveyed by characters telling someone else what Jake has been up to. Judy (Octavia Spencer) is the head of the pre-school that Jake attends and a friend to Alex. She informs the parents that Jake has been arguing with students, resisting the teacher when the dress-up time is over, and overall acting out. Judy also asserts the idea early in the film that Jake’s way of playing could be used to get an edge in the application process.
Fortunately, there are good elements in the film worth seeing. While the performances are a little uneven, there are flashes of good performances and a solid supporting cast. The story is definitely relevant to today’s world and it seems the arguments are presented in a way that lets the audience make their own decisions. Instead of preaching, it seems to remind that the most important part of parenting is making sure the child is taken care of and loved. A Kid Like Jake earns a Decent Watch rating.