Verónica (Jimena Franco) is a transgender sex worker in Costa Rica. On one evening, a taxi she rides in with her roommate Greta (Natalia Porras) hits a junkie, Tato (Camilo Regueyra). Verónica decides to help Tato to his feet and lets him stay in her apartment. Greta worries that Tato could cause trouble, but Veronica, an observant Christian, thinks that it is her responsibility to help this injured, downtrodden soul.

Hold Me Like Before is a lovely portrait of young, lonely, ostracized people. However, Jurgen Ureña’s film never builds to much: there seems to be a good half-hour or more left in this story when the drama abruptly stops. Franco is a strong anchor as the selfless Verónica, but Tato is a blank slate whose bizarre behaviour and lingering gazes go unexplained. One waits for the characters’ adventures in solitude to merge into something affecting, but the catharsis never comes.

Despite these story and character issues, Ureña captures the dangers and desires of a trans community thoughtfully. The former comes through palpably in the sound mix, where rumbling cars muddle out the dialogue, reflecting the perils this community of sex workers faces in an urban space. Performances of lip-synching and intimate dancing in a bustling nightclub reveal the need for connection among the characters. But, aside from these themes, Hold Me Like Before is too dramatically inert to make much of an impression.

Is Hold Me Like Before essential festival viewing?

Not really. This vivid look at a trans community is moving at spots, but often meanders and feels incomplete.

Hold Me Like Before screening times

Hold Me Like Before Trailer