Directed and co-written by Flavio Alves, The Garden Left Behind is a poignant and topical story that expertly showcases its characters and makes you relate with them on very basic, yet imperative levels. The film tells a heartbreakingly authentic story about a trans woman living in New York as she navigates her way through love, family, activism, xenophobia, and transphobia. Carlie Guevara crushes it as the main character, Tina, playing her as a magnetically complex, warm, and realistically flawed character. Everything about her scenes and dialogue has a complete sense of honesty to it. This is an absolute must-see performance from Guevara, you’d never know that this was only her second film unless you looked her up on IMDb. Writers John Rotondo and Flavio Alves put together an engaging script that makes most of the characters, who are actually played by real-life trans women (Hollywood, take note), sound natural, and the look of the film has a documentary-like feel to it that really enhances the viewing experience.
“…a heartbreakingly authentic story about a trans woman living in New York as she navigates her way through love, family, activism, xenophobia, and transphobia.”
As the story begins, we’re introduced to New Yorker Tina as she cares for her undocumented immigrant grandmother, Eliana (wonderfully portrayed by Miriam Cruz). Eliana obviously cares for Tina, but her old-school mentality prevents her from embracing Tina’s transitional changes. For example, she still calls Tina by pre-transition name. It’s not done out of spite or disrespect; it’s just done out of misguidance and obliviousness. Tina seems to be kind of resigned to it, and never makes it an issue or calls her Abuela out on it, but it speaks volumes in regard to their relationship dynamic. This is my favorite aspect of the film, and there’s a powerful scene that shows Eliana having a conversation with one of Tina’s friends about what Tina is going through.