A Fantastic Woman Review
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This year’s award season has been a ground-breaking one—both in film and behind the scenes. And as Hollywood has begun to take baby steps toward promoting equality and justice in recent months, films like the Oscar-nominated Chilean drama A Fantastic Woman (Una Mujer Fantástica) promote the same message.

A Fantastic Woman follows the story of Marina Vidal (Daniela Vega), a waitress and nightclub singer who seems to have the ideal life with her much-older boyfriend, Orlando (Francisco Reyes). But then, after a romantic night out for her birthday, Orlando falls ill, and he dies shortly after she rushes him to the hospital. As Marina mourns the loss of the man she loved, she’s faced with suspicion and hatred from his family—who, outraged by their relationship and her identity, would prefer to remove all memory of her from their lives.

The death of a loved one is already painful—but Marina is barely allowed any time to grieve. Instead, as she walks away from the hospital, she’s stopped by the police, who harass her, question her, and humiliate her because of her identity as a transsexual woman. And as she tries to deal with the shock of Orlando’s death, his family begins pushing her out of their lives, calling to ask her to turn over his car, showing up to push her out of the apartment they shared, and even refusing to let her know where the wake will take place.

Vega gives a strong performance as the grieving girlfriend. Admittedly, though, the nature of the film means that it doesn’t spend much time focusing on Marina’s loss and grief. It isn’t a tearful drama. In fact, at times it seems somewhat distant. Still, it has a powerful story to tell through the eyes of a woman who has everything taken away from her in a matter of days: her partner, her home, her pet, and her dignity. The people around her don’t understand her—and, instead of getting to know her, they insult her and attack her, both verbally and physically. Despite the insults and prejudice and accusations, though, she tends to handle it all with remarkable strength—strength that she’s probably learned from years of facing the same treatment time and time again. The pacing here isn’t always swift, but the character carries the film through its slow moments.

In an award season that seems marked by upheaval, uprising, and a call for justice and respect in Hollywood and beyond, A Fantastic Woman is a fitting addition to the Oscar roster. And Marina’s story is the kind that will make you leave the theater with renewed determination to make the world a kinder place.

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