Francisco Reyes, Daniela Vega, and Sebastián Lelio, the film team of the movie “A Fantastic Woman” (Una Mujer Fantástica) on the red carpet at the Berlinale 2017. Wikimedia/Courtesy
A moving story that highlights a common reality
Great works of art put a mirror up to reality. Even the most fantastical stories reflect the human experience on some level, or else it wouldn’t seem relatable. Sebastián Lelio’s gripping feature-length film “A Fantastic Woman” achieves this and more through an expertly told narrative.
Carmenmara Hernandez-Bravo, a Spanish instructor at Saddleback College, hosted the Chilean film, “A Fantastic Woman” during a Zoom meeting on April 22. The showing was held to commemorate the Day of Silence, an annual event to bring awareness to the harassment and bullying of LGBT students. Ongoing social issues were discussed before and after the film viewing.
The plot focuses on a transgender woman named Marina (Daniela Vega) as she grapples with grief due to her boyfriend Orlando (Francisco Reyes Morandé) passing away. Marina leads the audience on her emotional journey as she goes through humiliation and repeated grievances brought upon by her identity. This makes it all the more cathartic when she finally finds a sense of triumph at the end.
Vega’s performance is a definite highlight. She flawlessly captures Marina’s vulnerability and resilience in a subtle but powerful way. Vega’s acting combined with Lelio’s directing skills help to make Marina’s story engaging enough to cross language barriers for non-Spanish speakers who are hesitant to watch foreign films.
Lelio’s directorial vision elevates the film to award-winning status. The color and scene compositions are masterful eye-candy. Every shot and artistic choice is purposeful.
The opening waterfall shot is wonderfully done. The cinematography continues to impress, such as with the memorable dancing scene that’s artfully hypnotic. All of the colors used are pleasing to the eye in a way that enhances the film’s presentation.
“A Fantastic Woman” sprinkles symbolism throughout many of its scenes. Such as with an iconic scene where Marina’s pushed back by a powerful gust of wind. This serves as a reference to Marina’s struggles as a transgender woman, with the wind being symbolic of society’s treatment of her.
The clever art direction of this film makes re-watching it so rewarding. It is possible to find new ways to appreciate the excellent work that went into it on multiple viewings. This serves as a testament to Lelio’s brilliant filmmaking.
The film uses its musical score to masterful effect. Vega is a trained mezzo-soprano singer, and she gets to flex her vocal chops in several scenes. The music used outside of Vega’s performances proves to be equally enchanting and perfectly matches the mood.
The core of “A Fantastic Woman” is Marina’s unflinching resolve in the midst of transphobia. She suffers through numerous injustices both large and minor but still manages to show her resilience despite the circumstances.
The reality of transgender women’s experiences is shown through her harrowing predicament, which can make for an uncomfortable but necessary viewing experience. Instances where people misjudge Marina’s character or demean her purely because of her gender identity happen consistently throughout the film.
Marina’s struggles are heartrending to sit through. Scenes of her having to show her old ID card or, in a particularly upsetting scene, having to be photographed nude at a police station give viewers a glimpse of everyday occurrences. A consistent theme is the lack of empathy Marina receives from others. Her alienation from her peers provides a poignant reminder of the bigotry present in transgender people’s lives.
Remarkably, Marina doesn’t stay discouraged for too long. Her resilient attitude showcases why she’s a fantastic woman and embodies the film’s title.
“A Fantastic Woman” handles its subject matter with the subtlety and grace of the film’s protagonist. It undoubtedly earns its acclaim and is a must-watch for cinema fans.