Tropic Sprockets / A Fantastic Woman

By Ian Brockway

“A Fantastic Woman,” nominated for Best Foreign Film this year, is another provocative hit by Sebastian Lelio (Gloria). This compelling film is emotional, haunting, and thoughtful. It possesses a tension reminiscent of an existential thriller.

Marina (Daniela Vega) is a young trans woman who is in love with Orlando (Francisco Reyes), a man thirty years her senior. On Marina’s birthday, the two discuss plans for a romantic trip. But after the two are in bed together, Orlando has an aneurysm and dies.

Marina is almost immediately interrogated. The police are called and they insinuate that Marina is a dishonest person and not being truthful, full of condescension about her trans status. A detective is brought in (Amparo Noguera) to check for signs of injury to her body, saying that if Marina doesn’t comply she’ll be forced to file a case against her.

Marina is understandably horrified.
To make matters even worse, Orlando’s ex-wife (Aline Kuppenheim) is belittling and insulting. Perhaps she called the police?

Marina is placed in a Kafaesque circumstance at every turn, while she tries to preserve Orlando’s memory and focus on herself as a woman.

Every day is a trial for Marina who is often threatened by Orlando’s violent homophobic son Bruno (Nicolas Saavedra). In one scene, Bruno savagely tapes Marina’s mouth so that she looks like the the pig-like aliens in an old “Twilight Zone” episode.

Still she carries on. With winding Hitchcockian intensity, Marina becomes obsessed with her lover and sees Orlando everywhere. The phantom realm is as amorous as the corporeal one.

“A Fantastic Woman“ is a deeply humanist film. Marina is a woman of principle through the jungles of pettiness and hate. In just over a hundred minutes, this compact powerful film shows Marina as a fully realized person, an example for others and a hero to herself.

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