From Chilean director Sebastián Lelio, whose Gloria provided an indelible portrait of a woman adrift, comes this incisive character study of a different nature. Marina (Daniela Vega), the transgender heroine of A Fantastic Woman, is beautiful, enigmatic, and plunged into a precarious situation after her boyfriend dies unexpectedly in her company.
Fifty-seven-year-old divorcé Orlando (Francisco Reyes, Neruda) wakes in the middle of the night, suffers an aneurism and falls down some stairs, sustaining injuries that will come to haunt Marina after she takes him to the hospital and attempts to slip away before authorities and family members begin prying. Marina knows she’s regarded with suspicion for her youth, class, and, above all, gender status. She expects to gain little from Orlando’s demise, but the viciousness of Orlando’s son, the cold-heartedness of Orlando’s ex-wife, and the intrusiveness of a detective from the Sexual Offenses Investigation Unit force Marina to not only clear her name, but also to demand the very thing no one seems willing to give her: respect.
Making subtle nods toward Almodóvar and Fassbinder, Lelio suffuses his scenes with an air of subversive noir, emphasizing Marina’s quest to prove she is not the femme fatale her adversaries make her out to be. A Fantastic Woman is an alluring exercise in style, a smart spin on the genre, and a much-needed entry into the category of films that move trans characters from the margins to the spotlight.
“It may be a timely film, but it is its timelessness, as well as its depths of compassion, that qualify it as a great one.” (Ryan Gilbey, The Guardian)
“Shocking and enraging, funny and surreal, rapturous and restorative, this is a film of startling intensity and sinuous mood shifts wrapped in a rock-solid coherence of vision.” (David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter)
“Driven by a powerhouse performance by mesmerising transgender actress Vega, the fifth feature from Sebastián Lelio combines urgent naturalism with occasional flickers of fantasy to impressive and wrenchingly emotional effect.” (Wendy Ide, Screen International)