‘A Fantastic Woman’ – Film Review

Score

A sensitive story of a trans woman whose every day is a fight she doesn't want to have

Marina (Daniela Vega) knows who she is. She likes who she is and would like nothing more than to be left alone to live her life. Marina’s identity, though, does not entirely belong to her. Almost everyone she meets feels entitled to a view on her life and how, or whether, she should exist. Sebastián Lelio’s film is a sensitive, saddening, but not sentimental, story of a trans woman whose every day is a fight she doesn’t want to have. When we first meet her, Marina is relatively happy. She is a singer in a bar and has a boyfriend. He, much older than her, suffers a heart attack and dies. Marina is devastated, of course, but she’s not allowed to follow the usual path of grief, propped up by the sympathy of others. She’s viewed with different shades of distrust.

A social worker assumes that Marina’s relationship must have been an abusive one, because that so often happens to ‘people like her’. Marina’s boyfriend’s family suspects her of being after the dead man’s money. The police circle her carefully, looking for hints that there may have been foul play. As she forges on, we see that most of life is like this for Marina, a series of battles to be overcome. The only thing she can rely on for unconditional acceptance is her ex’s dog, and even that’s been taken from her.

Predictions of Daniela Vega becoming the first trans woman to be nominated for a Best Actress Oscar didn’t quite come to pass, but the hype was warranted. She’s astonishing. Marina looks like the Hollywood femme fatale, but it’s in part her armour against the world. She powers on through abuse both physical and emotional, trying not to harden against the world. Vega rolls with all the punches in a performance that’s determined and vulnerable. Roles like this for a trans actor are rare and Vega isn’t about to let a moment of it go to waste. She’s fully alive. Even though most of Marina’s existence is brutal and mean, the film maintains a chin-up hope that tomorrow will be better, if you keep on trying.

Details

Release date: 2 March 2018
Director: Sebastián Lelio
Starring: Daniela Vega, Francisco Reyes