Monday, August 24, 2020

Movie with Abe: The Garden Left Behind

The Garden Left Behind
Directed by Flavio Alves
Released August 28, 2020 (Virtual Cinema)

Identifying as part of a minority in any population is a choice that people rarely make for themselves. While there are those who loudly proclaim a lack of adherence to what is seen as normative, most that look or feel different do little to draw attention to the attributes that separate them, instead trying to blend in and ruffle few feathers. Remaining invisible isn’t always possible, and the prevalence of hatred and bigotry means that even a low profile and a determination not to engage with incisive behavior can’t definitively protect someone seen as a type of other.

Tina (Carlie Guevara) works as a rideshare driver in New York City, transporting a variety of people around to make money and take care of her grandmother, Eliana (Miriam Cruz). She has a driver’s license that still says Antonio and endures frequent taunts from those who physically identify her as trans, motivating her to proceed with surgery, a process that requires frequent interviews and which her long-term boyfriend Jason (Alex Kruz) doesn’t seem to support. A local convenience store clerk, Chris (Anthony Abdo), frequently sees Tina and navigates his own journey with intolerance as repeatedly demonstrated by his ignorant friends.

Some of this film’s content is extremely disturbing, like when Tina is seen walking and minding her own business and becomes the subject of cruel verbal insults and threats of physical violence. Tina never invites any unwanted attention, but she is also determined to live her life and be who she wants to be. She converses cordially and enthusiastically with her passengers, and knows that her grandmother can’t quite understand how she needs to express herself. Her true friends are deeply loyal and on her side, and she conveys a sincere joy when she meets with a stoic doctor (Ed Asner) and begins to imagine a future in which she feels completely at home in her own body.

This marks the tremendous debut of Guevara, who brings a warm and radiant energy to a character whose experiences are often difficult and heart-wrenching. She drives this film, which includes a rich and authentic cast of transgender and Latinx performers conveying complicated existences. There is a sense of wonder that endures even in dark, depressing times in this film, showcasing people who cannot control what others think of them but can only chart their own paths forward and strive to find happiness. This film is a moving tribute to those who have searched for that fulfillment and haven’t necessarily been able to find it because someone else decided they didn’t deserve it.


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