CHANGING THE GAME poster | ©2021 Hulu

CHANGING THE GAME poster | ©2021 Hulu

Rating: Not Rated
Stars: Mack Beggs, Sarah Rose Huckman, Andraya Yearwood
Writers: Michael Barnett, Amanda Griffin, Michael Mahaffie
Director: Michael Barnett
Distributor: Hulu
Release Date: June 1, 2021

CHANGING THE GAME, a documentary, begins with a training session for a young man, Mack Beggs. Mack has a deep voice, facial hair – and is the state champion for female high school wrestling.

In Texas, the law insists that students must compete as the gender listed on their birth certificate. This is profoundly frustrating to Mack, who wants to compete against other boys. It also causes a ton of verbal and written abuse, primarily from the press and adults, who rail against Mack as a young woman on hormones. The spectacle of grownups ganging up on an adolescent is appalling.

Chelsea, another high school wrestler who competes against Mack, sums up the situation admirably: “Do you honestly think someone would change their entire gender just to win State?”

CHANGING THE GAME also follows two other talented transgender teen athletes. Sara is a skier and makeup vlogger in New Hampshire, who becomes an advocate for transgender rights.

In Connecticut, where state laws about high school sports are based on gender identity, Andraya is a track star. She is startled and moved to discover she’s a role model.

CHANGING THE GAME is appealing and interesting. We root for Mack in his quest to wrestle as a man (which seems like it would make even his detractors happy). It’s wonderful to see Sarah’s confidence, and affecting to witness Andraya’s moments of connection.

It’s also intriguing to see the trio’s very different but deeply supportive families. Mack has been raised by his grandparents, who identify as lifelong Republicans and devout Christians. Andraya has a protective single mother. Sarah’s parents are rightfully proud of their daughter’s self-assurance

Director Michael Barnett has found compelling focal points for his film. However, because there is no narration (informative subtitles are provided at times), we can’t tell if we’re meant to accept it unironically when Sarah’s parents declare that they don’t see transgender rights as a political issue, and then have their daughter literally fight for passage of a state law.

Likewise, when we hear the statistic that forty percent of transgender teens attempt or commit suicide, it’s horrifying. Still, it would be good to know what amount of that percentage have families, coaches, and teammates as nurturing as those that are the focus of the film.

CHANGING THE GAME is a charming and empathetic portrait of its young protagonists. We just might wish it explored some of the issues it raises in a little more depth.

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