Filipino-American actress Angel Qinan is a compelling presence in Tamir Yardenne's 18-minute short film You'll Be Okay, a film centered around a trans woman, Gloria (Qinan), who finds love with a cis gendered male, Andres (Walter Tabayoyong), and is seemingly on her way toward the ever-elusive happiness when she receives a vivid reminder of the delicate nature of life as a trans woman.
It was only last year that Flavio Alves' emotionally riveting The Garden Left Behind captured the Richard D. Propes Social Impact Award at the Heartland International Film Festival and there's no question I saw shades of that award-winning film in this more straightforward, poignant effort written by former LAPD officer turned indie filmmaker Michael C. Lopez with a story inspired by true events while Lopez was working vice.
It's likely a sad statement that nearly any time a trans-centered story crosses my desk I expect violence to be a central theme, an unfortunate fact that remains relevant and very true in this film.
Qinan, however, does a tremendous job of drawing us into Gloria's story with the vast majority of the film dedicated to hopefulness and redemption. Qinan began modeling just a year after her transition and in addition to her work as an actress, model, and host is also a registered nurse.
You'll Be Okay is simply shot with lensing that feels intimate yet also anxiety-inducing. That anxiety gets amped up even moreso the moment that Shaun Gerardo's Buck shows up on the screen. Gerardo casts an intimidating figure while also bringing to light just how easily someone can be "offended" by a trans woman's presence despite not being involved one iota in her scenario.
Suddenly, that faux offense turns into very real violence.
In addition to terrific performances by Qinan and Gerardo, Walter Tabayoyong gives a sympathetic, emotionally honest performance as Andres. Kudos must be given as well to Blake Orantes Pedrero for a title song, "You'll Be Okay," for the short that perfectly complements its emotional rhythms.
While there are moments the film's low-budget is evident, the storytelling is strong and Yardenne's intuitive direction guides the ensemble cast toward making the most of the material. Currently getting started on the indie fest circuit, You'll Be Okay is definitely worth a view if you get a chance.