A Fantastic Woman (2017), dir. Sebastián Lelio, starring Daniela Vega
Grief is difficult to handle, but no one allows Marina Vidal (Daniela Vega) the time and peace to properly grieve after the sudden passing of her partner Orlando. As a trans woman Marina is treated with deep hostility by Orlando’s ex-wife and son, and by forbidding Marina to attend the wake and funeral, they deny her the basic human right to say goodbye. If this wasn’t enough, the police unjustly view Marina with suspicion over Orlando’s death, on the grounds of her identity rather than any evidence.
Empathy is a core component of the grieving process and an important message of the film. Early on Marina is confronted by Orlando’s son Bruno. She has to explain that “We are the same.” Indeed, both are the same: two people who have lost a loved one. But Bruno refuses to see it that way, leaving Marina humiliated when his contempt for her becomes physical. What Marina’s numerous antagonists fail to realise is that they are merely supporting characters in Marina’s journey.
At every turn Marina faces disrespect simply because of who she is. And yet in these troubling circumstances she never gives up her defiance. By capturing Marina’s personal and emotional experience throughout, A Fantastic Woman feels like first-person storytelling; rarely does entertainment invoke empathy so successfully. Blurring the lines between reality and fantasy expresses Marina’s vulnerability in this time of loss.
As Chile’s entry to the 90th Academy Awards, the film went on to win for Best Foreign Language Film. Chilean activists hope that Vega’s newfound platform will help to pass a long-awaited Gender Identity Bill. Get Out and The Post speak to our times, and A Fantastic Woman joins their ranks by being a film to actually say something. The power of art continues to be exercised.