Having a transgender protagonist is something that hasn’t been explored much to in Hollywood movies, but Flavio Alves’s directorial debut, The Garden Left Behind, is an organic and interesting way of capturing an individual who feels misplaced and misguided.
The Garden Left Behind tells a story of Tina, a young trans woman just beginning to pursue her medical transition through the guidance of her fellow trans sisters. Throughout the film, Tina is faced with a number of challenges including being publicly humiliated and accosted in the streets by transphobic men, having a “boyfriend” that refuses to take their relationship seriously and treats her as a sex object (much like most trans women are treated by cisgender, heterosexual men in real life) and having a grandmother, Eliana, that doesn’t quite understand Tina’s decision as to why she wants to transition.
The Garden Left Behind touches on so many real elements of living openly as a trans person, from the physical violence we face, to the difficulties of finding a meaningful relationship with a significant other, to how our biological families also go through a sort of “transition” with us. And what this film did the best, and the aspect that isn’t up for discussion, is capturing the life of a transgender woman. The authenticity and the natural feel of Tina, as a character, was thought-provoking and significantly sympathetic, to the point where you’re rooting for the character through and through.
The depiction of this kind of lifestyle is something that Flavio Alves clearly has a lot to say and his direction with this movie felt raw and honest instead of biased and restrained. Flavio Alves is really challenging audiences to think differently about transgenders and the character of Nina is a great exemplification of this notion.
However, the overall performances, character developments, and the structure of the overall narrative are where things start to come to a halt. Tina seemed to be a great character on paper, but the execution is where things feel uneven. The performance of Carlie Guevara is wooden and doesn’t really show much range. Granted, there’s a beautiful scene between the character of Tina and her doctor, and the exchange of dialogue between the two is powerful and provides a lot of weight and complexity. However, when looking at the overall performance of Tina, it’s sad to say that this was a glaring issue throughout the movie.
As previously mentioned, the construction in The Garden Left Behind, while feeling organic to a point, felt short cut in the message it was trying to address. Running at one hour and thirty minutes, The Garden Left Behind seems to promise an intricate and layered narrative, but really failed to feel complete at the end of the day. Adding about 20-30 minutes to flesh out certain aspects probably would not have been be a bad idea.
The verdict with The Garden Left Behind is there is a great movie somewhere underneath a lot of the glaring issues. While there is a beautiful authenticity and a beautiful interpretation, The Garden Left Behind features poorly developed characters, poorly written supporting characters, and a narrative that fails to execute its true potential. The film doesn’t do the best job of capturing an LGTBQ perspective, and that’s pretty disappointing, to say the least.
For more about The Garden Left Behind and where you can watch it, head to the official website.
Final Score: 2.5 out of 5.