Una Mujer Fantástica (A Fantastic Woman) (Sebastián Lelio, 2017): Chile | Germany | Spain | USA

Reviewed by Alicia Huhn. Viewed at the Chinese
1 Theater in Hollywood at American Film Institute’s AFIFEST 2017.

I am so glad that I did not read about this movie before walking in right as the film began. A Fantastic Woman is everything you want a movie to be and surprises you by capturing you from the beginning with involving you in the real tenderness of the two lovers.   I was at once intrigued by the romance of the two lovers and the Latin cultural theme felt familiar to me from living in Miami for 5 years. I am honestly admitting that I may not have chosen a film about transgender sexuality. I am impressed.  By not reading about the theme I did not know until the doctor began addressing the character whom she portrayed. This is an absolute testament to the true femininity of actress Daniela Vega and the director for their utter grace in presenting this very challenging role to portray. I think at this time is society there is tremendous pressure from viewers regarding a very delicate subject which many would like to ignore.   Marina is a complex character which, as a woman, I identify with before I realize she is transgender.   Especially the part where she is helping Orlando to the hospital and he falls down, because having worked the medical field I know how realistic and tragic this kind of event can be for anyone!   I know I’m not the first person to be fooled.  That’s not the point, the point is more that I wanted to be fooled.  I was therefore able to connect to the character and identify with her as a person before the label is applied.  I’m not sure if this is the directors intent, its just how I felt.  I felt lucky to find myself there in that film seeing it this way.  Once there, the surprise has me involved.  The string of obstacles and unthinkable unkindness and outright brutality that ensue further motivate me to see the character succeed through it all. It is a story about a woman, a misunderstood woman. Everything she was to Orlando was a woman but no one accepts her love as real.  The story is about humanity.  The way we feel as emotional, spiritual beings when anyone falsely judges us.  We are all human, even if we are not all transgender and we are all one humanity with varying degrees in varying ways. 

The shame Marina is treated with regarding the funeral is representative of the guilt and judgement imposed by religion the very thing that proposes to set us free.  The irony of human behavior.  It is ultimately a story about love and judgement and societal “norms” that impose negative beliefs.  This movie makes me feel much closer to another woman’s experience in life rather than a man who is confused which I think is how a lot of society judges homosexual or transgender people.  It just seems that the film makes the point about love vs sex. This is not a freaky story about transgender people it is an eye opening, intelligently directed and played film about the tenderness of love and the resiliency of a woman.  I especially enjoyed reading in her mini bio about Daniela Vega‘s experience of being discovered by her teacher as a gifted opera singer at the age of eight in Santiago, Chile.  She is a talented woman on many levels.  I also enjoyed reading about  Daniela Vega the woman because she seems to be part of the character she plays.  The voice is real, transgender is human, Daniela Vega demonstrates this in her portrayal of Marina.  As well as, Francisco Reyes in his portrayal of love toward her.  

Daniela is quoted here in her mini bio saying, “I think that creating art comes from a very deep, poetic, and contemplative place, and then the presentation process is such a frivolous one.”  and  “I gave her a sense of endurance and courage so that she would stay strong and stay dignified.  Great acting and directing.

I do not feel like I watched a movie about “a transgender person” rather I watched an excellent film about the struggles and triumphs of being a woman.  Women and men come in ALL shapes and sizes like a gradient not only one extreme or the other and all people deserve to be treated with respect, especially at a time of loss.



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