“A Fantastic Woman” (“Una Mujer Fantástica”)
Orlando (Francisco Reyes) takes his girlfriend, Marina (Daniela Varga), out for dinner and dancing to celebrate her birthday. He is 20 years older than Marina and the two feel in love after Orlando left his first wife. and fell in love with her after leaving his previous wife. Suddenly Orlando suffered an aneurysm, fell down the stairs and was rushed to the hospital and even though Marina rushed to get there, he died and there was nothing she could do, Marina rushes to the hospital but sadly not in time to save him. Filled with grief, Marina had to suffer of humiliations and insults from her lover’s family and the police who suspect her of corrupting and killing the deceased because she is a trans-woman.
From the very beginning we see that Marina is a wonderful performer and puts the audience in the back pocket when she is on stage. Her sexual identity is not an issue until she loses her lover. Daniela Vega totally captures Marina with her suffering and pain, the same that many trans-people are forced to endure so pointedly. She has only to deal with the aggressions of Orlando’s family and the police at first. They refer to her as a man and see her as a prostitute who was only with Orlando because of his money. Marina is visibly hurt but carries on; she is used to this level of disrespect and ignorance. The family prohibits her from attending her lover’s funeral for fear of offending the extended family. They take away everything Orlando gave to her and the police strip her down for one of the most humiliating physicals ever seen on film.
Director Sebastián Lelio has found the perfect balance, alternating between powerful symbolism and subtle realism with confidence and charm. Throughout the film, Marina endures compromises and wins small victories but she continues to fight for her right to say goodbye to her lover. In the first sequence we see a happy couple and watch as Orlando’s ghost becomes the voice of reason, lost in a world of gender bigotry. With this film, the audience gets a look at trans-life without sensationalism..
We only see Marina and Orlando together for a short period but we clearly see the way he watches her when she performs as a nightclub singer, and the level of comfort between the two that is real and passionate. But then with Orlando death, we understand that aside from the lovers, nobody else took their relationship for what it was. Because she transgender, the authorities and Orlando’s family refuse to believe in Orlando’s love for her. They see it as perverse and only Orlando’s brother Gabo (Luis Gnecco) shows any empathy for her. Marina grieves and simply wants to do so in peace, and say her goodbyes at the forthcoming funeral, yet is warned away by Orlando’s ex-wife and son. They also give her a deadline to leave the apartment that she lives in since it is in Orland’s name. Marina is tough is not going to give in anytime soon.
A few of Orlando’s belongings are given to Marina. One of these is a key that she cannot place, but believes there may be something for her, if only she could uncover which lock this key fits. This subplot beings suspense into the film. Marina is a victim in this humiliating affair with the law enforcement taking her in for questioning because of bruises on Orlando’s body from when he fell and we understand that the police need some kind of statement of what occurred. Marina is frustrated and wounded and fed up being treated differently and becomes very defensive and we understand why.
Lelio takes us into the mind of a character seldom seen in cinema without a hint of sensationalism. He is aided in this by having cast a genuine transgender performer as Marina, and Vega is simply remarkable. We get a sense for that anguish, from the bullying and humiliation, we feel her emotions and reactions and he gets a wonderful performance that is emotionally charged and dramatic in its execution.