Here is my review of the Chilean entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at this year’s Oscars.
Synopsis: A FANTASTIC WOMAN is the story of Marina, a waitress and singer, and Orlando, an older man, who are in love and planning for the future. After Orlando suddenly falls ill and dies, Marina is forced to confront his family and society, and to fight again to show them who she is: complex, strong, forthright, fantastic. (Sony Pictures Classics)
Starring: Daniela Vega, Francisco Reyes, and Luis Gnecco
Writers: Sebastián Lelio and Gonzalo Maza
Director: Sebastián Lelio
Rating: 14A (Canada)/ R (United States)
Running Time: 104mins
For showtimes and more, check out A Fantastic Woman on movietimes.com.
Certain stories transcend race and gender so we can relate to them on a human level and this was the case here. This film may star a transgender actress who plays a transgender character but the story is about much more than that. Marina (Vega) is a transgender waitress and singer who was in love with an older man named Orlando (Reyes). Once he suddenly passes away, she was forced to confront the world, including Orlando’s family who did not approve of her or his relationship with her.
All she wanted was to grieve the man she loved but she was prevented from doing so as she was faced with a constant barrage of questions and suspicion from people who did not understand her or her relationship with Orlando. As time went on, she became more and more alienated by Orlando’s family who were trying to eliminate her from their lives. Despite this experience, she showed great courage throughout while remaining strong in her beliefs and refusing to apologize for who she was or who she loved.
Transgender or not, many will surely relate to her struggle of being left alone in the world with the walls seemingly closing in on her. This made it very easy to empathize with her plight. She may have been in pain but you can see from her face that she mostly kept it internalized. Things were generally bleak, however, were still grounded in the sad reality that most transgender people have to face today. The beautiful yet simple cinematography and score also helped to create this mood.
The best part of the film by far was Vega’s powerful performance as Marina. She showed great strength and courage in the face of adversity but did so in a very subtle way, keeping her complex range of emotions below the surface, as seen through the many closeups of her face. She was very compelling to watch as she appeared in the majority of scenes. The one problem with the film was that we don’t really know much about her as a person as she was only depicted through the lens of her battle with Orlando’s family and society. Another subplot involving Orlando did not quite pay off either.
Overall, this was a great drama that humanizes the real plight of transgender people through the very relatable topic of grief and moving on that was brought home thanks to the powerful performance by Daniela Vega. The film’s title was an apt one since anyone who had to take that much abuse is fantastic to say the least.