A FANTASTIC WOMAN
FOUR STARS When Marina's older boyfriend suddenly dies, it's not just his family that cause her pain.
Daniela Vega, Francisco Reyes
DRAMA SPANISH CHILE #AFANTASTICWOMAN
The death of a loved one has seldom been so lovingly explored as it is in Sebastián Lelio’s sublime drama, A FANTASTIC WOMAN. Not only does he bring a raw intensity to Marina’s plight, a young woman whose older boyfriend unexpectedly ups and dies, but he infuses the story with an inspiring backbone - what an incredible world it would be if we were only half as strong or honest as Marina.
Marina is forced to deal with the grief of loosing her partner as well as the intolerable pain brought on by suspicious police, the late man’s unpleasant ex-wife and their mean, ugly family. They not only see Marina as a money-grubbing play-thing; they also see a trans-woman deserving of their bigotry and hatred. Knowing they’re wrong on all counts doesn’t make anything any easier.
A FANTASTIC WOMAN shouldn’t be considered any kind of sex-drama-with-a-twist (think THE CRYING GAME); it is simply an account of one woman rising above adversity: in this case, death and family drama. That it does so with incredible heart and courage is what makes it one of the finer films of its type. Casting the incredible Daniela Vega (perhaps the only time a trans actress who has played a trans character?) adds more weight and integrity to the piece.
Which is not to undersell Marina’s personal story - being a trans woman is a central tenant to the film and a timely reminder of just how far the LGBTQI+ community has come, and how far it still has to go. While gay-hate has eased for many in recent decades, for her it hasn’t diminished at all. Although Marina’s response to this unwarranted hostility can become something of a narrative barrier - the defensive walls also keep the audience at a distance - the end result is still an impressive and emotionally resonant film.