Linga Franca follows the story of an undocumented Filipina transwoman Olivia (Isabel Sandoval) in Brooklyn’s Brighton Beach Russian neighbourhood.
Olivia is the live-in caregiver for elderly feeble Russian Olga (Lynn Cohen – remarkable). Olivia has yet to get her green card, and she’s vulnerable to getting kicked out of the country in Donald Trump’s fetish for kicking out illegal aliens – it’s his rhetoric and voice that permeates in the background of the film. Olivia’s best friend and fellow Filipina transgender friend Trixie (Ivory Aquino) has found happiness with a good-looking American man and is more or less guaranteed a green card.
One day Olga’s Grandson Alex (Eamon Farren) returns from being away for a year – he’s the black sheep of the family. He stays with Olga and Olivia in Olga’s house and gets a job in a meat factory owned by his uncle.
Sure enough you can guess what happens next. Alex is attracted to Olivia and perhaps all too suddenly they fall into each other’s arms and make love. But is this what Olivia really wants? She had just been dumped by a guy who promised her the world, and Olivia, who was at a loose end and desperate, should’ve welcomed this new man in her life, but she doesn’t. We never really get to understand what makes Olivia tick and what will indeed make her happy.
While Lingua Franca is a very sensual and provocative film, we never really get to the heart and soul of Olivia. And the love affair between Olivia and Alex is a bit too easy. And while the direction and writing by Sandoval herself are delicate and moving, she brings us into an already chartered territory (it’s hard to top 2017’s ‘A Fantastic Woman’).
Lingua Franca may frustrate you a bit but it’s saved by terrific acting – especially by Cohen (she played Miranda’s housekeeper in ‘Sex and the City‘), who unfortunately passed away earlier this week.
OPENS IN SELECT THEATERS AND ON NETFLIX AUGUST 26