Critics' Pick

A Fantastic Woman (Una mujer fantastica) (R)

Drama 104 min. February 2, 2018
By April Wolfe
In the tense but hearty Chilean drama A Fantastic Woman, actress Daniela Vega plays a transwoman, Marina, who must navigate life after the death of her lover. But no matter what trials Marina must face going it alone in a city either hostile toward or simply confused by the nuances of gender identity, director Sebastian Lelio refuses to paint her as a simple victim, bucking the prevailing assumption that a transwoman at the center of a film must necessarily be a tragic figure.

In the early scenes, Marina is adored and cherished by an older man, Orlando (Francisco Reyes). But Marina has no idea how dependent on Orlando she is until he suffers sudden chest pains and she must rush him to the hospital. Once the two are separated by the surgery room doors, Marina seems to understand her life of happiness and security is already dissipating. A doctor delivers the news that Orlando is dead and questions Marina about a bruise on his head -- sustained from a fall as she was helping him get to the hospital. But she knows people will be skeptical of her story. Marina then slips into survival mode, and Vega's performance is so kinetic, here, that we can almost see the blood pulsing furiously through her body as Marina digests that her safety is now threatened. The physicality of her performance is the most intriguing element of this film. Marina's oscillating comfort and discomfort in her body is a story told without words. A Fantastic Woman shows that the obvious insults a transperson may endure will, of course, weigh on the psyche, but the death by a thousand well-meaning cuts hurts as well.
Sebastián Lelio Francisco Reyes, Daniela Vega, Aline Küppenheim, Amparo Noguera, Luis Gnecco Sebastián Lelio, Gonzalo Maza Sony Pictures Classics


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