A Fantastic Woman

A woman tries to pick up the pieces of her life in this wonderful drama

© Sony Pictures Classics Waitress Marina (Daniela Vega) moonlights as a nightclub singer and is bowled over by the death of her older boyfriend (Francisco Reyes).
      Marina (Daniela Vega: The Guest) is enjoying her birthday until boyfriend Orlando (Francisco Reyes: Neruda) has an aneurysm. She rushes him to the hospital, where he dies.
        And her nightmare begins.
        Because she’s a transgender woman, a doctor suspects her of harm and calls the police. They assume she’s a sex worker and Orlando a client she has injured, perhaps out of self-defense. Humiliating questions follow.
        Orlando’s family’s reaction is worse. They see Marina as a pervert who dragged Orlando into a life of sin and debauchery. She’s banned from his funeral and forced out of their apartment. She even loses her dog. 
       Marina tries to put her life back together, contending with how others perceive her. 
       A Fantastic Woman is a fantastic movie. Director Sebastián Lelio (Gloria) uses colorful, metaphoric framing and quiet acting to craft a beautiful film. His boxed-in framing shows how trapped she is by external perception. As Marina chases Orlando’s memory through Santiago, Lelio crafts scenes and images reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo.
        In this visual feast, Lelio keeps us focused on the people behind the story. Vega’s brilliant performance gives the movie its heart. Lelio initially hired her as a consultant, then cast her in the role. Her performance is a marvel, imbuing Marina with kindness, poise and dignity under pressure. But as Marina submits to scrutiny and scorn, we are reminded how easy it is to give into cruelty.
        You’ll have to travel to D.C. or Baltimore to see A Fantastic Woman, but this strong contender for the best foreign language Oscar is well worth the trip. 
Great Drama • R • 104 mins. 
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