A Fantastic Woman

Filed in Film by on February 2, 2018 0 Comments

The complexities of a non-traditional romantic relationship are laid bare in Sebastian Lelio’s sensitive Spanish-language drama, A Fantastic Woman, which opens in Canada on February 9.

Chilean actor Daniela Vega plays Marina Vidal, a trans-woman who’s been thrown into grief and mourning following the sudden death of her boyfriend, Orlando Onetto (Francisco Reyes). Orlando, 57, is about twice as old as Marina, who’s in the process of surgically transforming herself into a female.

As the film begins, Orlando — a textile manufacturer — meets Marina in a restaurant in Santiago to present her with a special birthday gift — a trip for two to Iguazu Falls, one of the natural wonders of the world. There’s just one little hitch. He’s misplaced the tickets.

Orlando and Marina go back to his apartment for a night of romance. When he falls ill, she rushes him to a hospital. He doesn’t make it, leaving Marina sad and desolate.

Daniela Vega in A Fantastic Woman

From that point forward, she’s subjected to a series of slights and insults due to her sexual orientation. A police officer pointedly questions her as if she’s a criminal. A detective pays her a visit. Orlando’s son tells her she has to leave his father’s flat and give up his dog. Orlando’s ex-wife denigrates Marina’s relationship with him, calling it perverse and chimeric, and orders her to stay away from his funeral. Orlando’s relatives abduct Marina, pouring scorn on her.

In a final indignity, Marina is compelled to appear at a police station, strip and pose for photographs.

It’s evident that society cannot digest the notion of a trans-woman, and Lelio’s movie makes that abundantly clear.

Despite the random humiliations Marina experiences, she’s a survivor, a strong and resilient person who rises above the challenges and has no trouble keeping faith with her new identity. In one didactic scene, the soaring soundtrack of Aretha Franklin’s (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman fills the screen as Marina drives a car.

Daniela Vega is marvellous in the demanding role as Marina. Vega is alternatively tender and tough portraying a person navigating a wrenching transition. It’s a performance to behold in a film that treats people like her with dignity and respect.

 

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