Daniela Vega in A Fantastic Woman (Photo: Sony Pictures Classics)
A FANTASTIC WOMAN
*** (out of four)
DIRECTED BY Sebastián Lelio
STARS Daniela Vega, Francisco Reyes
The newly anointed Academy Award winner for Best Foreign Language Film, the Chilean import A Fantastic Woman tells the story of Marina (an excellent Daniela Vega), a waitress who’s the partner of the affluent and older Orlando (Francisco Reyes). Late one night, Orlando discovers he doesn’t feel well, and it isn’t long after being taken to the hospital that he passes away.
Everyone is allowed to mourn in proper fashion after Orlando’s death – his ex-wife, his brother, his children. Everyone, that is, except Marina. Because she’s a trans woman, she is treated horribly by almost everyone she encounters. She’s bullied by one of Orlando’s grown kids. She’s badgered by an investigator whose specialty is sex crimes. And she’s forbidden by Orlando’s disgusted ex-wife from attending his funeral.
Writer-director Sebastián Lelio indulges in a couple of flights of fancy during the course of A Fantastic Woman, but they’re superfluous moments that really aren’t required. This is a movie that’s at its best when it operates simply and without flourish, satisfied merely to point out the awfulness of people when they refuse to show basic human decency toward those who are different. Like Get Out, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and other 2017 Oscar-entrusted peers, it’s a movie of the moment, similarly pleading for hope and change against formidable, unfortunate odds.