Isabel Sandoval’s Lingua Franca is a semi-autobiographical picture, and it’s worth noting that she directed, wrote, produced, edited and starred in the film all by herself; a commendable feat by anyone’s standards, but it’s not without its flaws.
The film centres on Olivia, a trans caregiver trying to find her way to a green card, exploring relevant themes albeit in a fairly unengaging way. While at first glance this may appear to be a film tackling current issues with modern means, it’s disappointing to discover that the narrative becomes little more than a generic love story.
Olivia’s relationship with Alex (Eamon Farren) dominates the picture at the expense of its message. It’s not poorly done; Sandoval’s performance is clearly inexperienced but Farren certainly does the best he can with the material. The problem is simply that it isn’t interesting enough. It’s certainly not new. We’ve seen this done better in plenty of other works and it’s not what the film should be focusing on.
But perhaps the biggest problem with Lingua Franca isn’t the plot at all. Rather, Sandoval has forgotten one very important thing: character. Olivia really has very little depth whatsoever. Aside from the fact that she is trans, a caregiver and an illegal immigrant, it’s really quite difficult to decipher who Olivia is.
She honestly never really feels like a person, but instead a mere prop; a vessel for the film’s themes and nothing more. That’s the real shame here. It’s very hard to care about Olivia’s plight without decent character development, and she honestly has none.
Lingua Franca has interesting themes to an extent, which are occasionally well-explored, but the film’s lack of any real character development and unintentional focus on its central love story mean it just completely loses sight of itself. Sandoval’s work is certainly admirable but it’s greatly flawed, and one can’t help but feel this picture may have been a tad more successful in more experienced hands.
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