October 23, 2020  (Web Review)

The Garden Left Behind

Reviewer rating: 3.5/4

Transgender actress Carlie Guevara plays Tina, a transgender woman and an undocumented Mexican immigrant—a Dreamer, in fact—living in a modest New York City apartment with her grandmother (Miriam Cruz). Feeling squeezed by a rash of hate crimes aimed, some by cops, at LGBTQ individuals in the neighborhood; the high price of transition therapy treatments; acquiring fake documentation; searching for a job; and dealing with a boyfriend who mistreats her, Carlie seems inexorably on a downbound train. But she’s also a fighter who rallies friends into an organized voice condemning violence against her community, and she endures a battery of interviews by a seasoned therapist (Ed Asner) whose judgment will determine whether Carlie can be approved for transition. The rarely-seen Michael Madsen plays a small but cheerful role as a bartender on Carlie’s side when she needs help; it’s certainly good to see him. Co-writer and director Flavio Alves stacks the deck a little heavily in turning The Garden Left Behind into a bathetic fable you can see coming a mile away. But the story’s many signs of life, such as touching scenes involving Carlie and her grandmother in their kitchen, or realistic therapy sequences intended to help Carlie find her voice, give the production warmth and vitality. Strongly recommended.  (T. Keogh)