A Fantastic Woman follows a transgender woman called Marina (Danela Vega), who after the death of her older boyfriend Orlando (Francisco Reyes) tries to move forward, but struggles with his bias family as she figures out what to do next with her life.
Nominated for Best Foreign Film at this year’s Oscars, it’s easy to see why as we are put into Marina’s shoes and how she has to deal with everyday life, let alone the sudden loss of her partner. The film itself moves quite slowly, but thanks to a commanding and brave performance by real life transgender actress Daniela Vega, what follows is a mesmerising and thought provoking film.
In what would be an already difficult situation dealing with her loss, Marina is investigated by police in a manner that puts her under suspicion as attention seems to be drawn more to the fact of her sexuality, rather than due process. It’s moments like this in the film where Vega shines as a performer, as she makes us feel just as uncomfortable as she is. One particular scene involving her deceased partner’s son and his friends is gut wrenchingly real, and shows the kind of bias Marina must face during the course of her life, no matter how good her intentions may be.
There are some redeemable characters however, which include Orlando’s brother Gabo (Luis Gnecco), who supported Marina’s relationship with him, and her sister and partner who take her in when she has nowhere else to go. But you still get the sense that Marina is still somehow alone in the world, and must always deal with the fallacies of people’s opinions and reactions to who she really is.
The film is tightly directed by Sebastián Lelio, who gives Marina’s surroundings a place of hope and fear in equal measure. But it is Daniela Vega who gives the film its raw and central power as we invest ourselves into her life, as she tries to move forward crossing each hurdle, one brave and emotionally charged step at a time.
It will not be a film for everybody, which in a way makes the story itself reflect even stronger, however if you’re looking for a thought provoking arthouse film with emotional depth and strong characters, then A Fantastic Woman will fit the bill nicely.
Chile’s submission to the Foreign Language Film Award of the 90th Annual Academy Awards.