Una mujer fantástica (A Fantastic Woman in English), is director Sebastián Lelio's Academy Award nominated entry for the Best Foreign Language Film from Chile. It stars Daniela Vega as Marina Vidal, a transgender waitress who has recently moved into an apartment with her boyfriend Orlando, a textile business owner, thirty years her senior.
The film begins grippingly as Orlando suddenly collapses in the bedroom after some lovemaking and is rushed to the hospital by Marina. There he expires from an aneurysm. What will happen to Marina? At first, with a pulsing electronic rock film score, A Fantastic Woman feels almost like a film noir as Marina becomes the subject of a police investigation into Orlando's death.
But instead of finding out more about Marina and what makes her tick, the film's scenarists are content to present her as a heroine, courageously fending off those who ostracize her due to the deep prejudice against transgender people in contemporary society (in this case Chile).
In addition to being harassed by the police, Orlando's ex-wife will not allow Marina to attend his wake or funeral and Orlando's brother wants her out of his apartment immediately. The brother has also dognapped Diabla, a German Shepherd whom Marina has bonded with during her relationship with Orlando.
The harassment reaches its apex when the brother kidnaps Marina and drives her around as his anti-gay pals tape her mouth shut with duct tape. Fortunately she's released by the thugs and eventually is able to get Diabla back (we don't actually see how but Orlando's other brother, Gabo, appears a tad bit more sympathetic and may have helped her).
One keeps asking where is this all going and there is a mystery of some of Orlando's keys connected to a locker at a sauna which the deceased businessman used to go to. Perhaps it's those missing misplaced vacation tickets of Orlando's which we find out about at the beginning of the narrative-but unfortunately no, those are what you might call a pseudo-MacGuffin. Marina ends up finding (SUPER SPOILERS AHEAD) nothing in the locker!
Lelio's mistake is to put Marina up on a pedestal as a symbol of victimhood for transgender people as well as making her into that (previously alluded) courageous heroine. We find out next to nothing about her background (except for some brief interactions with her sister and brother-in-law) and it's clear Lelio doesn't know how to turn her into a complex character. Had he done that, then perhaps she would have some bad characteristics mixed in with the good.
While Lelio nobly offers up an impressive and atmospheric visual palette, stands up for all transgender people and in doing so, creates a welcome plea for tolerance, it's simply not enough to craft a requisite compelling protagonist.
A Fantastic Woman
A Fantastic Woman
Somewhere in Santiago at a dimly-lit nightclub, Orlando, the kindly and well-off owner of a textile company, locks eyes with Marina, a hopeful singer and the roughly half-his-age love of his life. But, unfortunately, after Marina's birthday celebration and a night of passion, Orlando falls gravely ill--and by the following morning--he dies in hospital. In the wake of her companion's untimely death, Marina will soon realise that, from now on, everything is brought into question: her involvement in Orlando's death, their unconventional relationship; and above all, her right to mourn her beloved deceased. In the end, what was Marina's crime; a deed so hideous that would rob a fantastic woman of her respect, her dignity, and ultimately, her identity?
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May 16, 2018 at 09:02 PM