Review: A Fantastic Woman

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Director: Sebastián Lelio

Writers: Sebastián Lelio and Gonzalo Maza

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Starring: Daniela Vega, Francisco Reyes, Luis Gnecco, Amparo Noguera and Aline Küppenheim

Release Date: 2nd March

A Fantastic Woman chronicles the story of Marina Vidal (Daniela Vega), a transgender woman living in Santiago, who suddenly loses her much older partner Orlando. She faces criticism from members of his past whilst coming to terms with his death. Marina is left to deal with those Orlando left behind when he chose to begin a life with her: his brother, the only glimmer of understanding in the film; his territorial ex-wife; and his transphobic, unaccepting son.

We follow Marina through the events that follow Orlando’s death which include her being pursued and investigated by the police, being physically and mentally attacked by his family, and her search for Orlando’s dog whom he left to her. The majority of the supporting characters all maintain a facade of acceptance but once broken down, they are just as unaccepting as each other.

The majority of the supporting characters all maintain a facade of acceptance but once broken down, they are just as unaccepting as each other.

This is the latest picture from Chilean director Sebastián Lelio, whose past success includes the 2013 Oscar-nominated picture Gloria, which is being remade in Hollywood. Despite limited experience, the story is in trusting hands, as he balances the narrative between Marina’s alienation and the grieving of a loved one. This is a hero’s story and Vega (in her movie debut) is the perfect fit. Her range from fear and respect of Orlando’s family, to her defence of who she really is, and her relationship with Orlando make the film both an emotionally intricate and universally relevant story.

In recent years, trans culture has been explored in more media and we’ve seen a varied range of transgender characters. What makes Marina’s story different, however, is that it’s not a trans film. It’s a heart-breaking love story that just so happens to centre around a transgender person. Although there is transphobia, there are no repetitive stereotypes and it doesn’t sit back and rely on the fact that the hero is transgender to make a story. The depth goes beyond Marina’s identity.

It’s a heart-breaking love story that just so happens to centre around a transgender person.

With its stellar lead performance, glowing direction, and above all, its insight into being pushed into a corner where one’s feelings and emotions are made inferior to others, this is a must-see. A contender for best foreign language film at the upcoming Oscars, A Fantastic Woman is one fantastic film.

In a nutshell: A tale of love and loss that will make you think next time you point a finger and ask ‘Is that a he or a she?’

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