REVIEW: A Fantastic Woman

Review by Dustin Heller

Coming off a very successful awards season run, A Fantastic Woman topped it all off by being named Best Foreign Language Film at the 90th Academy Awards.  Directed by Sebastián Lelio, A Fantastic Woman became the first Chilean film to ever win the award.  The film stars Daniela Vega, a Chilean transgender actress and singer, in the lead role with support coming from Francisco Reyes, Luis Gnecco and Aline Küppenheim.  It is rated R for language, sexual content, nudity and a disturbing assault.

Marina, a transgender singer and waitress, and Orlando, an older man who owns a printing company, are in love and making plans for a future together.  Out of nowhere, Orlando falls ill and passes away unexpectedly, leaving Marina to pick up the pieces and face the harsh realities of her relationship.  In trying to cope at such a difficult time, Marina is met with nothing but hatred, doubt, and prejudice by Orlando’s family.  Although Marina and Orlando were in love, no one is willing to accept that and they just want her to disappear.  While going through such heartbreak, she is constantly forced to defend herself and her relationship.

A Fantastic Woman is a beautifully made film and a tough one to watch at the same time.  Lelio’s filmmaking is creative, artful, and gorgeous to look at, but it’s the human element of the story that makes it so difficult.  The lack of compassion and prejudice shown toward the protagonist is downright sickening at times.

A Fantastic Woman is a film that sets out to break down walls and educate the world about something that is unfamiliar and foreign to most.  It is the right film for right now.

The film starts strong and really gains momentum through the first two acts. Unfortunately, it loses steam in the third act.  On top of that, the ending was unsatisfying and somewhat confusing.  I would have loved to have seen the film finish as strongly as it started, but it ultimately sputtered at the end.

The performance by Daniela Vega is powerful and heartbreaking and definitely worthy of its praise.  Make no mistake, A Fantastic Woman is an arthouse film that probably won’t find much of an audience, but it will be remembered years from now for its groundbreaking message.  Cinefiles are going to want to seek this one out, but it is probably not a film for casual movie fans.

Grade: B-

A Fantastic Woman opens in Indianapolis on Friday, March 9