When artists like Alicia Vikander and Jared Leto win prestigious awards for movies handling the trans experience, dedicating their awards to the transgendered community, it begs the question of whether trans artists themselves will be able to tell their own stories. Well, thanks to the FX series Pose, along with movies like A Fantastic Woman and the latest film The Garden Left Behind, they are able to be more front and center.
Additionally, The Garden Left Behind digs into not only the experience of being trans in America, but a trans woman of color. How people are threatened just by their existence. By offering a simple, lived-in depiction of the life of Tina Carrera (Carlie Guevara), director/co-writer Flavio Alves makes the picture a simplistic, political experience. While it might not seem like it’s about much, seeing a transgendered woman become antagonized by people like bystanders and those within the medical system as she tries making a better life for herself is pretty heart-wrenching.
As for Carlie Guevara as Tina, her performance is subtle yet pretty effective. It’s a fine example of acting as being with her casting giving the performance more authenticity. Some of her best scenes involve Tina and her boyfriend Jason (Alex Cruz) who continuously keeps his distance from her. Even though she’s being given negative signs, Guevara makes it understandable as to why Tina would still pursue him since one thing Tina wants out of life is to be loved. Although she does have friends within her community to encourage her to be politically active, Tina still yearns for her companion who can give her physical intimacy and compassion.
Love is something that Chris (Anthony Abdo), a bodega worker, seems to want to offer to Tina. Because the two of them never interact, Chris’ storyline doesn’t mesh well with the rest of the picture even if his confused bigotry becomes examined. Anthony Abdo does an admirable job at trying to expand upon the limitations of his underwritten character, yet the picture still works best when it’s strictly focused on Tina’s vantage point.
Besides Tina’s turbulent relationship with her boyfriend, her bond with her grandmother Eliana (Miriam Cruz) proves to be another vital component. As Tina tries going about on her daily routine, Eliana continuously questions her lifestyle choices as she fears for their lives as immigrants in America, adding more thematic poignancy to the politically charged storyline. Miriam Cruz’s performance as Tina’s concerned grandmother also makes the bond between her and Guevara seem genuine.
This look at Tina’s life is a simple yet urgent reminder of the validity of trans lives such as herself. Tina may be a fictional character, but her struggle is too similar to the ones that countless members of the trans community face. Even if The Garden Left Behind doesn’t say anything new regarding such struggles, it still does its part at keeping the conversation going on why trans people shouldn’t be antagonized for existing. After all, trans rights are human rights.