A Fantastic Woman review: brutal honesty makes for raw and emotional viewing


Daniela Vega in A Fantastic Woman.
Daniela Vega in A Fantastic Woman.

IT feels like not so long ago that we had to endure long waits between quality queer representation in film on the big screen, with a The Birdcage or Brokeback Mountain coming along every few years.

In the past several months alone, God’s Own Country, BPM (Beats Per Minute) and Battle of the Sexes have been impressing critics and audiences, hot on the heels of Carol and Moonlight.

And now Call Me By Your Name is in the running for the Best Film Oscar this month.

Best Foreign Language Film nominee A Fantastic Woman tells the story about one of the even lesser represented letters in the LGBTQ acronym with devastating realism.

When her much older lover Orlando (Francisco Reyes) dies suddenly after a night of passion, lounge singer and waitress Marina Vidal (Daniela Vega) must contend with police and Orlando’s disapproving family.

It is not the fact that Marina is half Orlando’s age or that he struck up a relationship so soon after leaving his ex-wife that prompts prejudice, or that he was old enough to be her father, but that Marina was born Daniel.

Left with no time to mourn her lover’s death, Marina is met with suspicion from the authorities, who grill her with questions, and Orlando’s bigoted family, who boot her out of his apartment and claim the dog.

The territory it covers (the horrible treatment of transgender people) is hardly surprising, but A Fantastic Woman pulls no punches in depicting the intolerant and insensitive society transgender people face on a daily basis.

It is brutal honesty makes A Fantastic Woman raw and emotional viewing.

At times it feels like it dwells a little too long, without a glimmer of hope, on the injustices Marina faces, however for many in this situation there likely is no relief.

Making her debut, Vega’s performance is multi-dimensional – quiet, deliberate and commanding. In some moments she is almost frozen by the treatment and lack of support, and others she allows her fierceness to finally surface.

THE ESSENTIALS

A Fantastic Woman (MA)

Directed by: Sebastian Lelio

Starring: Daniela Vega, Francisco Reyes, Luis Gnecco

Four stars

Review by: Julian Wright

In cinemas February 22