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Review: A Fantastic Woman

February 9, 2018

By John Corrado

★★½ (out of 4)

Marina (Daniela Vega) is a transwoman in Chile, who is dating the much older man Orlando (Francisco Reyes).  When Orlando suddenly falls ill and dies while they are together, his family starts to place the blame on Marina, barring her from coming to the funeral service, driven by both jealousy of everything that he left to her as well as a lack of acceptance towards her gender identity.

The latest from Chilean filmmaker Sebastián Lelio, A Fantastic Woman not only offers a character study of someone who is in the process of grieving a loved one and isn’t being allowed to properly say goodbye, but also an exploration of the challenges faced by many transwomen, including having to undergo a police investigation and strip search.

Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars, A Fantastic Woman is a bit overrated by my estimation.  The film has some tonal shifts that don’t always work, playing mostly as drama but also sometimes segueing into comedic, melodramatic, and even fantastical territory, all to varying amounts of success, and I didn’t find myself overly invested in the story all the way through.  But A Fantastic Woman is still well acted and well shot, and Benjamín Echazarreta’s cinematography has some interesting visual uses of mirrors to symbolize the surfaces we present to the world in order to find acceptance.

A version of this review was originally published during the Toronto International Film Festival.

A Fantastic Woman is now playing in limited release at TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto.

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