ON SCREEN · FILM
A Fantastic Woman
This Academy Award winner for Best Foreign Film paints an exquisite portrait of a Chilean transgender woman grieving the death of her partner.
Programmer’s Note: The must-see film of the year. We caught this at the Telluride Film Festival and walked away absolutely speechless.
This Academy Award winner for Best Foreign Film paints an exquisite portrait of a Chilean transgender woman, grieving the death of her partner while navigating unforgiving social mores. Sebastián Lelio’s (Gloria) rapturous melodrama makes us re-think our ideas around gender and cheer for Marina in all her beautiful, headstrong glory. The film is perfectly paced and visually transfixing, anchored by Daniela Vega’s multilayered, emotionally polymorphous debut performance—a feat of acting that deserves so much more than political praise.
D: Sebastián Lelio, Chile, subtitled, 2017, Runtime: 1h44m
“As much as Fantastic Woman explores the Sisyphean battles of living as a trans person in a straight world, the quieter beat beneath its story of Otherness is a portrait of grief, poignant and raw: though Marina sees visions of Orlando everywhere, she’s never really allowed to mourn him because officially, she has no claim on any part of him. ‘Saying goodbye to a loved one is a basic human right isn’t it?’ she demands near the end, exhausted. She’s right of course … it’s heartbreaking, illuminating, and yes, fantastic, just to watch her live.” —Entertainment Weekly
Praise for this Academy Award-winner in Time Out:
“Hitchcock used to say that if one of his movies was working, you could follow it with the sound off. By the same measure, he’d have approved of this taciturn Chilean character piece. It’s a quietly devastating story of prejudice that often seems to be powered solely via the infinitesimal registers of its lead, startling newcomer (and the country’s first transgender actress) Daniela Vega. You barely need to refer to the subtitles to know what’s going on: it’s written all over her face.
“Vega plays Marina Vidal, a trans lounge singer seeing a much older man, printing proprietor Orlando (Francisco Reyes). Their rapport suggests a long-term relationship full of easy certainties and shared realities. But when she sings ‘Your love is like yesterday’s newspaper’ as he watches on at her club, it’s weirdly prophetic. Before the day is out, he’s lying dead on a hospital slab, felled by chest pains and badly bruised by a subsequent fall. Little does she know, but she’ll soon be stripped of her stake in their life together by his grasping, disapproving family—right down to their beloved dog.
“Before all that, the cues of a traditional thriller are toyed with in an opening that if not actively Hitchcockian, is at least Hitchcock-ish. A gruff female detective quizzes Marina about Orlando’s death, suspicions raised by her flight from the hospital, as Matthew Herbert’s score helps amp up the brooding atmosphere. Will she have Orlando’s death pinned on her? And what’s in that mysterious locker?”