Verónica (Jimena Franco) and Greta (Natalia Porras) are transgendered sex workers and roommates living in Costa Rica. Spending their evenings working on street corners and hanging out in clubs, their peaceful existence is disturbed by the presence of Tato (Camilo Regueyra). Tato is a homeless teenager who they literally run into, when the car they are in accidentally hits him, whom Verónica cannot bring herself to leave the wounded youth in the street.

Inviting the young man to live with them until he is fully healed, Verónica tries to navigate the new dynamics in the house while dealing with her past and contemplating her professional future. As all of this unfolds, director Jurgen Ureña drops little breadcrumbs to unlocking the character motivations in his observational look at prostitution and family. Do not expect these crumbs to form a whole loaf though.

Ureña’s film is sparse in terms of plot, and at times feels like one is trying to put together a puzzle from a box with key pieces missing. However, this is part of the film’s charm. What is clear is that each character has a personal void that needs filling. Verónica’s need, if the shrine she has constructed is any indication, is directly tied to the mother she has not seen in ten years.

Taking a docudrama approach to his storytelling, Ureña avoids flirting with the traditional hooker with a heart of gold conventions. Nor does he make them women victims of circumstance. He lets his characters, and the story itself, move to their own rhythm, showing their strengths and emotional vulnerabilities with equal measure. Hold Me Like Before is a riviting film that leaves many questions, but that is to be expected when dealing with the issue of family, even makeshift ones.

Wednesday, May 31, 7:30 PM, TIFF Bell Lightbox

Tickets can be purchased at the Inside Out website.