Movie Review: A Fantastic Woman

By Maria Lubanovic, Copy Editor
[Sony Pictures Classics; 2017]
Rating: 8/10

In this house, we support LGBT media.

A Fantastic Woman, or Una Mujer Fantástica in its home country, has already won an Oscar for Best Foreign Film. It was made and produced in Chile and features a transgender actress, Daniela Vega, in the lead role.

The film is an emotional drama that follows trans woman Marina and the drama after her boyfriend, Orlando’s, untimely death. After Orlando dies, Marina is followed by police and brutally mistreated by Orlando’s family. They trash Marina’s apartment and steal her dog. They threaten her and misgender her over and over. A detective shows up at the restaurant she works at and interrogates her while also trying to say that she is on Marina’s side. This is bookended by a doctor giving her an examination and forcing her to expose herself. If nothing else, this film shows some of the unbelievably difficult things that trans people have to deal with and the everyday macroaggressions that are so common in our society.

On top of all of this, Marina’s character is never treated as a joke to the filmmakers. She is not exploited as a trans person to be funny or conformed to a specific stereotype, making her a realistic and relatable character. She has flaws and real consequences for her actions. Marina feels like a real person and is shown losing it and making irrational decisions and trying so hard to grieve for Orlando, even when everybody else doesn’t want her to. This film also avoids many of the tropes that make some LGBT media so hard to consume, such as an ever-present favorite of straight cis filmmakers, “bury your gays.”

The cinematography and general filming of this film is beautiful and somber, using the bright colors of Chile to highlight certain scenes. After Orlando’s family trashes the house, Marina’s yellow dress from the first scene where the couple dances together is hanging above the mess against a forest green wall. In that moment, a dress that was attached to a happy moment seems garish and out of place. In even more somber moments, the set dressing is always saturated with color. Hospital scenes and police station scenes are a sterile white and green, showing how disconnected Marina is from these places. She is also often positioned near and around mirrors to show how she is constantly searching for herself in a world that refuses to treat her like a human being. Marina is also almost always in the center of the frame and is almost never accompanied by other people. Even scenes where she is talking to Sonia or Bruno, Orlando’s ex-wife and son, are shot back and forth between the characters. It adds to Marina’s constant feelings of solitude.

This film shouldn’t feel a radical as it does. Unfortunately, there are many people who view trans or other LGBT identities as a perversion the same way that Sonia and Bruno do. Trans people are valid. They are real people with real struggles. We desperately need more stories that present these themes.

Watch the trailer here:

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