In Superb Oscar Winner A Fantastic Woman, a Bereaved Transgender Woman in Chile Fights to Mourn with Dignity | Film Review | Indy Week
Pin It

In Superb Oscar Winner A Fantastic Woman, a Bereaved Transgender Woman in Chile Fights to Mourn with Dignity 

Sebastián Lelio's A Fantastic Woman is a melancholy and philosophical portrait of a transgender woman's fight to mourn her partner's death with dignity. At the beginning of the film, we meet Marina (Daniela Vega) and Orlando (Francisco Reyes), a happy May-December couple living in a posh apartment in Santiago, Chile. When Orlando suddenly dies, Marina is forced into various confrontations with her partner's family as well as with the state, which does not recognize Marina's gender, much less her right to be treated as her lover's kin. Throughout the film, Marina's struggle to partake in the smallest tokens of mourning, like attending Orlando's funeral, becomes a fight for existence itself.

Through a succession of the smallest aggressions and the most debasing indignities, we witness Marina's repeated assertions of her personhood. With cinematographer Benjamín Echazarreta's camera often trained on the protagonist's face, the film is a study in Vega's superb expressiveness. Her face registers exquisite sensitivity through the blankness of traumatic shock while also transmitting a palpable warmth and wit.

Rapidly displaced from her formerly protected life, Marina is pushed further and further to the margins of the city. Long tracking shots capture her lanky form walking through immense terrain, from glittering urban skyscrapers to graffiti-strewn peripheral neighborhoods, and we notice how starkly urban space indicates who is included and who is excluded, who is normal and who is abnormal, who gets to be a citizen and who does not.

In the ugly attacks that Marina withstands, the film also reminds us that Chile's history of fascism, not fully in the past, still finds expression in patriarchal rage against so-called aberrant gender expressions. The desire to torture, punish, and control perceived deviants' movements lives on in the most intimate aspects of family life and the most quotidian routines of bureaucrats and law enforcement.

Despite the film's unflinching portrayal of the realities of transgender life in Chile, it's no miserabilist paean to suffering. The delicate violin score and crisp cinematography underscore Marina's unyielding will to live. If one of the defining tropes of the twentieth-century art film was a glamorous, alienated woman walking across war-ruined European metropoles, Marina might be the defining figure of the twenty-first century: a woman fiercely holding on to her personhood when multinational capital has determined humans on the global periphery to be basically disposable.

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Film Review



Twitter Activity

Comments

Much as I hate to be that guy, I must nonetheless point out a minor error in your review. The …

by Just Another Malcontent on Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs Is an Alternately Respectful and Baffling Parable About Japan (Film Review)

I loved the movie but I'm curious about the Japanese version. Will it be translated or subtitled? I assume they …

by Neil Robertson on Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs Is an Alternately Respectful and Baffling Parable About Japan (Film Review)

Most Read

No recently-read stories.

Visit the archives…

Most Recent Comments

Much as I hate to be that guy, I must nonetheless point out a minor error in your review. The …

by Just Another Malcontent on Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs Is an Alternately Respectful and Baffling Parable About Japan (Film Review)

I loved the movie but I'm curious about the Japanese version. Will it be translated or subtitled? I assume they …

by Neil Robertson on Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs Is an Alternately Respectful and Baffling Parable About Japan (Film Review)

Lurid and Trashy? Clint Eastwood is a true pioneer of cinema-in front of the camera and in the directors chair.For …

by jde on In Her Remake of Clint Eastwood's Lurid, Trashy The Beguiled, Sofia Coppola Probes Deeper Rhythms (Film Review)

Americans are really good at watching movies and everyone knows that they spend a lot of money on watching them, …

by Anil Sharma on The Average American Sees Five Thousand Movies in a Lifetime. Half of Them Come Out This Week. (Film Review)

I read a couple of good reviews about this movie in Hungarian papers. Actually it could be my mother's and …

by Gabor Lukacs on Ferenc Török’s 1945 Is a Dark Fable and a History Lesson Wrapped in Fine Cinematic Storytelling (Film Review)

© 2018 Indy Week • 320 E. Chapel Hill St., Suite 200, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation