A Fantastic Woman
Only her second on-screen appearance since making her debut in Mauricio Lopez Fernandez’s 2014 picture The Guest, Chilean transgender actress Daniela Vega has taken on the leading role in Sebastian Lelio’s newest film, A Fantastic Woman. The feature sees the team from the director’s previous work Gloria – including the likes of screenwriter Gonzalo Maza – reunite to work on this story, which handles not only the sensitive residuals that follow the passing of a loved one, but also themes of bigotry, betrayal, denial and grief, all encapsulated under an umbrella of transgender identity. A considerable challenge for Lelio, Vega and the rest of the team; but do they pull it off?
The film opens in Chile and follows the daily activity of an older gentleman named Orlando (Francisco Reyes), who, following a session at his local Spa, visits a hotel bar to watch Marina (Vega) – the woman he loves – sing. 30 years her senior, Orlando is already planning for the future, and how they will spend the rest of their lives together. Following an evening of celebration for Marina’s birthday, the couple return to Orlando’s for the night, but he is unexpectedly struck down by an aneurysm that proves to be fatal. In a matter of hours, Marina’s life shatters before her as she is suddenly the subject of suspicion over the passing of her older boyfriend, and she is unable to grieve the loss of her loved one thanks to the disapproval of his immediate family. Under investigation and scrutiny, Marina must use her identity and strength of will to power through the sea of adversity, all in order to say goodbye to Orlando one final time.
The topics and themes in the movie make it devilishly difficult to create, an intricate job for any who are not wholly confident in the message they are trying to purvey. Thanks to the brilliance of the cast and the talent of Daniela Vega, this challenge was not such a mean feat for Lelio. Vega gives a powerful performance of assurance and courage, one that instils a pride like no other in the transgender community, and comforts those that may be so unfortunate to face such tribulations in the wake of grief. The talents of the Chilean actor know no boundaries, and we will certainly be hearing Vega’s name a lot more in the future.
The director works closely with cinematographer Benjamin Echazarreta to create an abstract work of art that is aesthetically rustic and spontaneous, yet also encompasses the realities of a naturalistic world. When paired with a Chilean soundtrack and orchestral/operatic interludes, the film becomes a sensual feast that plays with the audience’s emotions in an amalgamation of utmost sincerity. After its critical success at Berlin Film Festival in 2017, it really is no surprise that A Fantastic Woman has been nominated for an Oscar in the Best Foreign Film category, and it is surely a serious contender for the statuette. The main competition? Ruben Östlund’s societal barnstormer The Square.
A Fantastic Woman is released nationwide on 2nd March 2018.
Watch the trailer for A Fantastic Woman here: