A Fantastic Woman is a strange and sometimes uncomfortable film to watch, but one that is also often beautiful and moving. The film follows its protagonist’s Marina, a transwoman living in Chile, whose older male lover, Orlando, dies unexpectedly. His death brings the wrath of both the family and the state against Marina, though she had nothing to do with it. From that moment, viewers watch as she attempts to navigate the fallout, often alone and in peril, as again and again, someone questions or attacks Marina’s identity and intents. The film, though only a little over 100 minutes, feels long, because viewers are given little reprieve–Marina always seems to be moments away from danger. And for the most part, she is.
Though the plot of the movie revolves around the fallout surrounding Orlando’s death, the movie might better be described as a series of scenes showcasing the varied reactions different people have to Marina, and her reaction, in turn. While Marina is certainly not a stoic, she is powerless in many ways, and it is the other characters in a scene who determine how things play out. When Marina returns Orlando’s car to his ex-wife, she stands there and allows that woman to study her, to tell Marina how she thinks she is some sort of sex deviant; likewise, when a policewoman takes an interest in Marina’s role in Orlando’s death, she forces Marina to go to a police station and undergo an invasive physical examination. Marina does not tolerate these actions because she is weak, but because she has to, and again and again during the film, viewers are shown how resilient she is.
Not everyone reacts badly to Marina. She is shown to interact with many people at her job or on the street who either fail to notice or don’t care that Marina is trans. Refreshingly, there are also people in her life who support her, such as her boss, her sister, and of course, Orlando. Though the film could have shown a real hellish life for Marina, it does allow the audience to breathe every once in a while.
In conclusion, I highly recommend this film to everyone but the faint of heart. It showcases and important and very real identity that is often attacked (especially in Chile). The film continues to play at the State Theatre and student tickets are $8.