Una Mujer Fantástica (2017)
Director: Sebastián Lelio
Screenplay: Sebastián Lelio, Gonzalo Maza
Cast: Daniela Vega, Francisco Reyes, Aline Küppenheim, Luis Gnecco
Running time: 100 min
Una mujer fantástica (A Fantastic Woman) is a Chilean drama film which won this year’s Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, amongst other accolades like the Silver Bear for Best Screenplay and the Teddy Award at the Berlin International Film Festival.
It tells the story of Marina (Daniela Vega), a young trans woman whose older partner Orlando (Francisco Reyes) dies suddenly after a night out in Santiago celebrating her birthday. In the wake of this unexpected tragedy, Marina battles prejudices and abuse due to her identity in present-day Chile.
The film progresses gently as it balances the treatment of Marina’s grief with outsiders’ abuse. Without Orlando, Marina does not have anyone to turn to as her whole existence is brought into question. She is not allowed the right to mourn her lover: her lover’s family does not accept her, and his death further increases the cleavage between her and them, to the point where she is forbidden from attending Orlando’s wake or funeral. Yet throughout this pain, Marina’s identity is also challenged. The film does a great job of exposing the latent transphobia within society as she receives abuse not only from Orlando’s family, but also the police or doctors, who are convinced her identity as a trans woman is in some way related to Orlando’s death; the abuse is both physical and psychological at times, but yet Marina prevails with dignity: she is a fantastic woman.
LGBT issues are dealt with respectfully, and transgender actress Daniela Vega’s performance is stellar as an anchor to this gripping story. The world created by Sebastián Lelio is mellow at first, and arresting afterwards, as it follows Marina’s journey ranging from content to fury, to melancholy, allowing the audience to experience the indignities she is forced to go through firsthand in an eye-opening account.
Photos via AFI Press and IMDb