A Fantastic Woman


Co-Writer/Director Sebastián Lelio

Another excellent film by Mr. Lelio (Gloria), and Chile’s entry for the 2018 Academy Award, is a beautifully told story of a trans woman who’s lover dies and the challenges she faces with his family and society. Daniela Vega, the trans actress in the lead role, is stupendous as a woman unable to express her grief as almost everyone around her denies her humanity and rightful place as a grieving lover. Her reined in performance is tone perfect, and Lelio fills the screen with her face, asking us to read what’s behind it. The cinematography (Benjamín Echazarreta) is splendid, and Lelio mixes in some fantastical visual elements to great effect.

As with many of the Chilean films I’ve seen, there is an underlying tension which I connect to the horrors Chile suffered under the Allende years and the slow process of healing still underway. Although there is no direct linkage to the usual Chilean political touch points, the issue of transgender acceptance is indeed a political matter and one which Lelio connects to both institutions (hospital and police) and family. This is a powerful film to come out of any society, and especially so from a Latino culture in which the issues of LGBTQ are even more volatile. Bravo. Must See

Relatable Reviews

  • A.O. Scott at the NY Times gives it his highest marks and praise. “Psychologically astute and socially aware as the film is, it is also infused with mystery and melodrama, with bright colors and emotional shadows. Almodóvarian and Buñuelian grace notes adorn its matter-of-fact melody, and its surface modesty camouflages an unruly, extravagant spirit. You may not realize until the very end that you have been gazing at the portrait of an artist in the throes of self-creation.”
  • Justin Chang in the LA Times also gives it the highest marks, singling out Vega’sperformance. “For the better part of two hours (Lelio) follows Marina as she races from devastation to determination, from righteous anger to melancholy understanding, across a city that views her with rude indifference at best and predatory contempt at worst. The camera’s presence thus imposes its own corrective. Its sole purpose is to see Marina — and know her — as fully as possible.”