Heartland: The Garden Left Behind
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“The Garden Left Behind” is a stunning film that shines a spotlight on the struggles of a transgender woman and her quest to be accepted as the only thing she wants to be – herself. Sweet, tragic and ultimately eye-opening, “The Garden Left Behind” is the kind of film that uses subtly to power its narrative and delivers an emotional gut-punch that leaves you silent as the credits start to roll.
What makes “The Garden Left Behind” something special is the lead performance of Tina by Carlie Guevara. The film rests on her shoulders and it’s her performance that lights this film. The pain and struggle that Tina goes through during the film is raw and what gives the film a disturbing sense of reality about the society around her. For every moment of hope, something is waiting around the corner to knock her back down and Guevara plays it perfectly.
Tina works hard to provide for herself and her grandmother and is the process of getting approved for the transition process. She meets faithfully with psychiatrist Dr. Cleary (Ed Asner), the only person standing between herself and the process, but grows frustrated as the sessions go on longer than she’d hoped. Her frustration turns to joy once she gets the go-ahead from Dr. Cleary, but another hurdle is thrown in front of her when she learns the price of her transition, which is another moment played to perfection by Guevara.
As soon as Tina’s life looks like it’s on track it begins to fall apart around her as her boyfriend abandons her, her grandmother continues to struggle to come to terms with her reality and Tina finds out that her transition process might not be what she thought it would be.
Something that lends to the reality of the film is filmmaker Flavio Alves’s choice to cast transgender actors in transgender roles including Guevara. There’s a moment in the film between the grandmother and a transgender woman where Elaina (Miriam Cruz) asks why her grandson is doing this and the exchange is so authentic it hurts.
“The Garden Left Behind” clocks in at 90 minutes which makes for a tight film, but I would have liked to have it go on a little longer. I enjoyed every minute of screen time by Guevara and Alves was able to construct believable relationships and dynamics that leave the viewer rooting for Tina, aghast at the actions of the society around her, but heartbroken in the end when Tina’s story does have the ending we’d hope for.
Energized by a powerful performance by Guevara, “The Garden Left Behind” is a must-see with a message that will have a lingering impact on anyone who watches it.