A Fantastic Woman * * * (2017) | Bfi Flare Film Festival 2018

March 3rd, 2018
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Sebastián Lelio | Chile / USA / Germany / Spain | Spanish | Drama | 104′ · Colour

A story of love and loss is a wrapped around a gutsy portrait of transgender alienation in Sebastian Lelio’s fifth feature and follow-up to his Golden Bear winner Gloria. It has won him considerable acclaim including an Oscar (2018) since its Silver Bear win at Berlinale 2017.

Suave middle class business man Orlando (Francisco Reyes) has left his attractive wife for a strong-jawed woman 20 years his junior. Marina (Daniela Vega) is a talented singer and transgender. After a romantic birthday celebration together the two return home where Orlando is taken ill and dies on the way to hospital. This is naturally a terrible shock for Marina but nothing compared with what is to come in the aftermath of the tragedy. The whole family are clearly threatened by Marina’s sexual identity and the way Orlando has abandoned them. Soon she is under police scrutiny and vilified by all his family who want her out of his home and barred from the funeral tribute.

Daniela Vega gives an impressive central performance venting powerful expression to the full emotional spectrum experienced by the newly bereaved, as well as humiliation over the treatment she receives from his family. Marina is not a particularly likeable character – the strong and convincing support cast even less so – but she expresses dignity and forbearance given the circumstances and the acts of cruelty that follow. This is a watchable and intriguing drama where once again Lelio displays a natural understanding of female characters who are at odds with mainstream society in contemporary Chile. Santiago provides a lush backdrop to the action and the musical choices suffuse the film with a melancholy that permeates through to the final resonating scene. MT


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