A Fantastic Woman Reviewed By Clayton Barnett

The Premise
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?

The Review
A powerful Oscar-nominated look at the trials a transgender woman faces after the loss of a loved one.

Chile’s acclaimed entry to the Foreign Language competition of the Oscars is a powerful thing and is one of the favourites to win the category. A Fantastic Woman has been a festival hit and cleaned up at the Berlin Film Festival where it premiered.

Trans actor Daniela Vega puts in a star-making performance, in what must be a role of a lifetime for pushing forward trans stories and films. Vega gives this real emotional heft and your heart just breaks at her suffering and humiliation. Her singing in the movie is moving stuff too.

The supporting cast are all too realistic as the bullying family of her partner. The casting director did a smart job too casting some familiar Chilean faces hurling the abuse - like Luis Gnecco (Neruda) and Francisco Reyes (The Club) - making it so much harder to take.

Santiago native director and co-writer Sebastian Lelio (Gloria) doesn’t overdo things here, he let’s the relatively straightforward story play out with Daniela’s powerful performance front and centre. It’s confronting stuff but a worthy watch.

While the narrative might seem slow at times it’s a gorgeous thing to watch thanks to the subtle eye of French cinematographer Benjamin Echazarreta. Saunas bathed in red, a surreal disco fantasy, haunted carwashes, there are many remarkable shots and sequences – mostly dialogue free - that will have you ruminating on long after the credits roll.

The Verdict
It might not be everyone’s idea of a good time at the movies but a tale of diversity as good as this - with such a powerful central performance - is one worth seeing and in need of telling.

The Trailer

The Info
Releases: 1st March 2018
Rating: M – Contains Violence, offensive language & sex scenes
Duration: 104 minutes 
Genre:  Drama
Starring: Daniela Vega, Francisco Reyes, Luis Gnecco
Director: Sebastián Lelio (Gloria)

The Extras
Chile's submission to the Foreign Language Film Award of the 90th Annual Academy Awards.

From Sebastián Lelio, director of Gloria (2013).