Monday, December 17, 2018

A Fantastic Woman

Directed by Sebastian Lelio and written by Lelio and Gonzalo Maza, Una mujer fantastica (A Fantastic Woman) is the story of a transgender woman whose lover had just died as she is accused of being involved in his death while dealing with her own identity. The film is a look into a transgender woman dealing with loss as well as deal with her own identity as a transgender while trying to maintain her work as a singer and waitress. Starring Daniela Vega and Francisco Reyes. Una mujer fantastica is a rapturous and evocative film from Sebastian Lelio.

A man falls ill as his transgender lover tries to save him by going to the hospital only to die with many of the man’s loved ones and family asking many questions about what had happened. That is pretty much the premise of the film as a whole as it play into this transgender woman who is vilified by those who don’t really know her other than the fact that she’s a lover to this much older man. The film’s screenplay by Sebastian Lelio and Gonzalo Maza takes place in the span of a few days from a night where it opens with a typical day between Marina (Daniela Vega) and Orlando (Francisco Reyes) as they go out and return to his apartment whom the former had just moved in only for the night to end tragically with Orlando’s death. The rest of the story revolves around Marina being asked about what happened where a police investigator, Orlando’s ex-wife Sonia (Aline Kuppenheim), and others ask about what happened to Orlando thinking there’s some foul play. Adding to Marina’s own issues is her identity with some are in disbelief that Orlando would choose to spend the rest of his life with someone like Marina with Sonia asking her to not attend Orlando’s wake and funeral.

Lelio’s direction is largely straightforward in terms of its visuals where it is shot on location in Santiago, Chile as it’s a place that is vibrant and more open to new things yet there are those who question some of these new ideas and new identities. There are some wide shots to establish some of the locations including scenes that play into the world that Marina lives in that is vibrant that includes a restaurant that is next to a children’s amusement park. Lelio’s usage of close-ups and medium shots play into the drama that includes a police examination that proves to be a horrific moment of humiliation for Marina as well as a scene where Orlando’s son Bruno (Nicolas Saavedra) tries to bully her with a few of his friends in a form of physical abuse. Lelio doesn't aim for anything stylish other than the ghostly presence of Orlando following Marina who is reminded of her love for him no matter how much people give her a lot of shit. All of which forces Marina to show that she is a woman as well uncover some truths about Orlando that his family is forced to deal with. Overall, Lelio crafts a ravishing yet mesmerizing film about a transgender woman dealing with the passing of her lover.

Cinematographer Benjamin Echazarreta does excellent work with the film’s cinematography with the usage of low-key lights for interior scenes at night including a nightclub as well as some of the exterior scenes at night. Editor Soledad Salfate does nice work with the editing as it is largely straightforward in terms of playing up to the drama as well as bits of suspense as it relates to a key that Marina is carrying that belongs to Orlando. Production designer Estefania Larrain does fantastic work with the look of Orlando’s apartment as well as the look of some of the places that Marina goes to. Costume designer Muriel Parra does amazing work with the costumes as it includes much of the casual clothing that Marina wears including a few dresses for what she wears whenever she sings.

Sound editor Daniel Iribarren and sound designer Tina Laschke do superb work with the sound as it play into the sound of a club as well as some of the locations as it add to the dramatic elements of the film. The film’s music by Nani Garcia and Matthew Herbert is wonderful for its mixture of folk and woodwind classical music to play into the drama while its soundtrack feature an array of classical and opera music as well as music from Aretha Franklin, the Alan Parsons Project, and Hector Lavoe.

The casting by Alejandra Alaff and Moira Miller is terrific as it include some notable small roles from Alejandro Goic as a doctor for the police, Nestor Cantillana as Marina’s brother-in-law Gaston, Trinidad Gonzalez as Marina’s sister Wanda, Antonia Zegers as Marina’s fellow waitress friend Alessandra, and Amparo Noguera in a superb performance as the police investigator Adriana Cortes who is suspicious about Marina as she wants to know if there really was foul play involved. Nicolas Saavedra is fantastic as Orlando’s son Bruno as someone who doesn’t like Marina as he wants to have his dad’s apartment all to himself. Aline Kuppenheim is excellent as Orlando’s ex-wife Sonia as a woman that is kind to Marina as well as grateful for Marina to bring some of Orlando’s things despite her issues as well as asking Marina not to attend Orlando’s wake.

Luis Gnecco is brilliant as Orlando’s brother Gabo as the one person in Orlando’s family that is sympathetic towards Marina as he tries to help her as well as mediate between her and the rest of the family. Francisco Reyes is amazing as Orlando as middle-aged man who is Marina’s lover as he doesn’t appear much in the film but other than someone who is caring as well as be a ghostly figure for Marina. Finally, there’s Daniela Vega in a tremendous performance as Marina as this transgender waitress/singer that is dealing with loss but also questions about what happened to Orlando prompting her to deal with issues of her identity and the prejudice she faces forcing her to not take shit anyone as well as be treated with some respect as it is a true breakthrough performance.

Una mujer fantastica is a spectacular film from Sebastian Lelio that features an incredible performance from Daniela Vega. Along with its ensemble cast, study of gender identity, gorgeous visuals, and a hypnotic music soundtrack. The film is truly a marvel in its approach to a transgender woman trying to defend her identity as well as the love for the man who gave her so much. In the end, Una mujer fantastica is a sensational film from Sebastian Lelio.

Sebastian Lelio Films: (The Sacred Family) – (Christmas (2009 film)) – (The Year of the Tiger) – Gloria (2013 film) - (Disobedience (2017 film)) – (Gloria Bell)

© thevoid99 2018


Brittani Burnham said...

Are you reading my mind? I was silently bitching about how I can't find this movie anywhere to rent. lol

Reading your reviews always reminds me to check my local library as you've told me to do so before and I just realized they finally have this now! I hope to see it soon, finally.

Great review!

thevoid99 said...

@Brittani-It's been on Starz! for about a month or two as I had it on my DVR and watched it this weekend. It is an incredible film. I'd totally get it. This is why you can't always rely on the Netflix.