A Fantastic Woman



Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh 94%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Upright 80%
IMDb Rating 7.2 10 16802


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Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Turfseer 5 / 10

Nice atmosphere but Chilean director's symbol of transgender victimhood is a one-dimensional character

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.

Reviewed by mel_bear 9 / 10

A classy one woman show with a great supporting cast

Knowing a little of the story before hand I was not holding great hopes for this evening's cinema excursion. However, I was most pleasantly surprised from the opening music which lead us the steamy interior of the sauna where slowly, in the background, naked bodies could be seen imerging from the low lit darkness. Indeed one of the beauties of the film is the wonderful camera work. The shot in the elevator was worth the price of the ticket alone. Daniela Varga is a great actress and has to hold the audience's attention as she appears in almost every scene. She certainly held me in the palm of her hand and I had difficulty not taking my eyes off her. Daniela further exploited her talents by doing her own singing. The acting was superb from all the supporting cast but it was Daniela's film, with the help of Sebastian Lelio, of course.

Reviewed by proud_luddite 7 / 10

Vega stands out

Marina Vidal (Daniela Vega) is a transgender woman and aspiring singer in her twenties and living in Santiago, Chile. After the death of her lover, a man in his fifties with an ex-wife and an adult son, Marina is left alone in dealing with her grief and the aftermath of the death.

In addition to the burden of grief, Marina must also deal with humiliating and prejudicial situations around her transgender status. She subtly shows an attitude of "I hate having to go through this again but I can." Interestingly, her transgender status is used to her advantage in a later scene in the film.

Vega is in nearly every scene of the film and must carry it on her shoulders. She does the job superbly. She ably conveys awkwardness and vulnerability as her character attempts to maintain what is rightfully hers while being aware that many battles may not be won.

Much of the film follows Marina as she journeys through the city's urban atmosphere to numb her pain. The last quarter of the film takes a different twist that is less interesting than what precedes it. But "A Fantastic Woman" is a good film overall mainly due to the subtle skills of its lead performer.

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