Directed by Sebastián Lelio
Strongly anchored in the priceless acting skills of Daniela Vega, the Chilean drama “A Fantastic Woman” paints a modern portrait of struggle, independence, confidence, and resilience.
The film’s central focus is Marina Vidal (Vega), a transgender woman in her late thirties who works as a waitress during the day and sings in a nightclub at night. She suffers a deep emotional blow when Orlando (Francisco Reyes), her 57-year-old partner, dies at the hospital from an aneurysm. The incident occurred on the same night that she moved into his apartment in Santiago. Thus, Marina has no place else to go, which motivates Orlando’s rude son, Bruno (Nicolás Saavedra), to insinuate she might have something to do with his father’s death. Bruno’s pugnacious mother, Sonia (Aline Küppenheim), is very explicit when stating that her ex-husband embarked on a perversion, forbidding Marina to attend his funeral. Among the members of the family, only Gabo (Luis Gnecco), Orlando’s benevolent brother, accepts Marina, even saving her from additional imbroglios with an inquisitive police officer at the hospital. However, he couldn't prevent an unsmiling female police detective (Amparo Noguera) from stalking her and demand humiliating physical exams to clarify a hypothetical suspicion of aggression.
Throughout this oppressive journey, she gets some help from her sister, Wanda (Trinidad González), but didn't gain the sympathy of her sarcastic boyfriend, Gaston (Néstor Cantillana). The real support comes from her singing teacher (Sergio Hernandez), who finding his emotionally torn student in pain, offers a friendly shoulder.
Argentinean-born Chilean director Sebastian Lelio, who gave us the memorable “Gloria” last year, composes the picture with depressive tones, a slow and steady pace, and a few redundant scenes, which, clearly intending to define the character’s personality, ended up more strained than reasonable. On one of them, Marina forces a man out of a taxi, justifying the demeanor with an emergency, while in another, the wind blows so forcefully that she can barely walk, a symbolic yet dull representation of the stagnancy that dominates her life at this point.
The screenwriters, Lelio and Gonzalo Maza, created a mysterious, opaque fog around the core of the story that simply didn’t work. Their vain supernatural suggestions, planned to make the difference, revealed to be ineffective, even time-consuming.
Ferociously punching the air to release the stress, Marina shows an insusceptible inner strength and self-determination in the face of prejudice, vexation, and loneliness. And yet, despite bending on many occasions, her self-identity was never put in question. This is the strongest aspect of a film that, unlike "Gloria", and despite the best intentions, is not going to be missed.