Chilean director Sebastián Lelio follows his 2013 Festival hit Gloria with this drama about a young transgender woman struggling with both her own grief and societal prejudice after the death of her middle-aged lover.
A Fantastic Woman
From Chilean director Sebastián Lelio, whose Gloria provided an indelible portrait of a woman adrift, comes this incisive character study of a different nature. Marina (Daniela Vega), the transgender heroine of A Fantastic Woman, is beautiful, enigmatic, and plunged into a precarious situation after her boyfriend dies unexpectedly in her company.
Fifty-seven-year-old divorcé Orlando (Francisco Reyes) wakes in the middle of the night, suffers an aneurism, and falls down some stairs, sustaining injuries that will come to haunt Marina after she takes him to the hospital and attempts to slip away before authorities and family members begin prying. Marina knows she's regarded with suspicion for her youth, class, and, above all, gender status. She expects to gain little from Orlando's demise, but the viciousness of Orlando's son, the cold-heartedness of Orlando's ex-wife, and the intrusiveness of a detective from the Sexual Offenses Investigation Unit force Marina to not only clear her name, but also to demand the very thing no one seems willing to give her: respect.
Making subtle nods toward Almodóvar and Fassbinder, Lelio — whose English-language film Disobedience also appears at this year's Festival — suffuses his scenes with an air of subversive noir, emphasizing Marina's quest to prove she is not the femme fatale her adversaries make her out to be. A Fantastic Woman is an alluring exercise in style, a smart spin on the genre, and a much-needed entry into the category of films that move trans characters from the margins to the spotlight.