A Fantastic Woman (2017)
Marina, a transsexual woman who works as waitress who moonlights as a nightclub singer, is bowled over by the death of her older boyfriend.
When Marina’s (Vega) older lover passes away suddenly, she finds she has more than just grief to contend with. People are mostly unsympathetic to her suffering given the ‘nature’ of the relationship and are shits about everything, from kicking her out of the home she knows to leaving her out of the funeral plans.
While Marina holds down her waitressing job and gets on with life as best she can, she is needled by the behaviour of Orlando’s ex-wife and family, who want her out of the picture as soon as possible. While there is some empathy shown by Orlando’s brother, Gabo (Luis Gnecco), he doesn’t rail against the others enough to make things easier for our heroine.
When supposed assistance comes in the form of a female police officer, things still do not change and Marina is put in a very vulnerable situation indeed. In the meantime, she’s found a mysterious locker key in Orlando’s car that is causing her minor intrigue. Maybe it holds a secret?
Vega is incredible in the role and it isn’t hard to understand why this is up for the Best Film in a Foreign Language Academy Award. But, while it is very moving, the films starts slowly. Marina walks around a lot.
The film’s strength is in the hands of its lead, who is mesmerising to watch, even when stomping around the city. Marina has a quiet strength that guides her through all the turmoil but she is not unaffected, simply resigned to an unacceptable attitude towards who she is. She is subjected to humiliation on a regular basis, forced to shield herself from the shouted insults of bigots – and treated like a second class citizen, just for loving someone.
What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. ~ Marina Vidal
A Fantastic Woman is prone to flights of fancy, which work well in contrast to the more ordinary scenes of Marina at work or, yes, walking about. I personally found myself roused by the more surreal moments, including a very simplistic wander through the city against an increasingly strong wind. Marina finds herself braced against the strength of the gale, symbolic, non?
There’s also a stunning scene in the club where Marina does a dance number with a horde of backing dancers. The effect is beautiful and powerful. I’m here always for a jolt of unreality to shake things up.
This film is a tragedy but it’s also hopeful. Marina doesn’t back down where some of us might and she realises being able to say goodbye to a loved one is a human right. Why should she go quietly anyway – or feel any shame for making her lover happy before his death? Or, for that matter, for who she is?
What she goes through seriously sucks but you can’t keep a good woman down for long.