The Garden Left Behind (3 stars)

The Garden Left Behind

GFF 2020: A young trans woman is the subject of an unsentimental and elegantly shot New York drama

Tina, a transgender Mexican woman living in New York, spends most of her days driving a taxi and most of her evenings with her grandmother. Add in dates, chats with supportive friends in the trans community and doctor appointments and you have the majority of The Garden Left Behind's plot. An unsentimental overview of Tina's life, the feature debut of Brazilian filmmaker Flavio Alves – winner of SXSW's Audience Award – strives for an authentic portrayal of what it's like to be trans and an immigrant in New York today.

The film opens with a shot of Tina (Carlie Guevara) walking down a street, being watched and insulted by a group of young men in a car. A close-up of one man in particular hints at a relationship between him and Tina. We rewind in time and are dropped into the everyday bustle of Tina's existence – from buying her grandmother Eliana (Miriam Cruz) a new vacuum cleaner, to the stress and joy of beginning gender reassignment surgery.

There's an elegant realism to Koshi Kiyokawa's cinematography, as we follow Tina down dirty streets and sit with her beside a river, endowing her environment with as much character as its residents. Soon, we're introduced to the young man from the opening scene's close-up: Anthony Abdo's Chris, a troubled soul who works in the local bodega and seems to have a crush on Tina.

The Garden Left Behind begins to fall apart when Alves makes the decision to move away from Tina and focus on Chris. This attempt to explore how young men are taught to hate jars with the rest of the film, which offers a much more interesting portrait of a young woman. It results in a misguided and heavy-handed ending that feels more symbolic of the struggles of the trans community than true to the film's characters.

Screening on Fri 6 and Sat 7 Mar as part of the Glasgow Film Festival 2020. General release TBC.

The Garden Left Behind

  • 3 stars
  • 2019
  • 1h 28min
  • Directed by: Flavio Alves
  • Cast: Carlie Guevara, Anthony Abdo, Michael Madsen, Edward Asner, Carlie Guevara

Tina (Guevara) is a trans Mexican woman living in New York; the film follows her life driving a taxi, spending her evening with her grandmother and hanging out with trans friends. Unsentimental and authentic, although the ending is misguided and heavy-handed.