Marina, a waitress who moonlights as a nightclub singer, is bowled over by the death of her older boyfriend.
Chilean film ‘A Fantastic Woman’, this year’s Academy Award winner for ‘Best Foreign Language Film’, is a deeply moving drama that follows a transgender woman in Santiago coming to terms with the sudden death of her partner. Marina (Daniela Vega) is a 27 year old woman who works two jobs as a waitress and singer and when we first meet her she’s getting ready to move in with her partner, 57 year old Orlando (Francisco Reyes). The opening fifteen minutes of the film establish that they share a loving relationship and this is particularly important in setting up what will follow, when Marina’s world comes crashing down as Orlando becomes ill and dies shortly afterwards. The film then follows Marina as she deals with the authorities and various members of Orlando’s family, all whilst trying to process her own grief and keep things together.
The film follows the quiet and subconscious dehumanisation Marina is subjected to by various people, both those who are outwardly offensive and those who are unsure how to react to a trans woman, and the affect of this is shown at all stages through the brilliant performance from Vega who sells every moment of anguish with subtle changes in her facial expressions. She is rarely treated like a person, is subjected to some horrific abuse, yet she maintains her dignity at all times and it’s easy to forgot that she is prevented from mourning the person she loves as she wishes through the prejudices of others. The film is shot mainly in close ups which enable us to spend much of our time in Marina’s headspace as the camera lingers on her, capturing every heartbreaking expression as she shows remarkable restraint to deal with the bigotry surrounding her.
British electronic musician Matthew Herbert is responsible for the deeply evocative score and I felt it worked really well when blended together with some of the more surreal flourishes that director Sebastian Lelio introduces into proceedings. I also liked the low key approach the filmmakers have taken towards the material, avoiding grand gestures or overt politicking to focus squarely on the human element through Daniela Vega’s subtly moving display in the central role. ‘A Fantastic Woman’ is a sensitive, engaging drama about the trans experience that puts you firmly in the shoes of its protagonist and I thought this was a really excellent piece of work.
Directed By: Sebastian Lelio
Starring: Daniela Vega, Francisco Reyes, Luis Gnecco, Aline Kuppenheim, Amparo Noguera, Nicolas Saavedra, Antonio Zegers, Trinidad Gonzalez, Nestor Cantillana and Alejandro Goic