Una Mujer Fantástica (A Fantastic Woman)

Feb 23, 2017 · 3 min read

Spoiler-free summary: I liked “Una Mujer Fantástica”’s (A Fantastic Woman) technical chops, and I like how Daniela Vega commits to the part of Marina, but the movie as a whole comes up short.

Spoilers after the bear.

Una Mujer Fantástica” never ends up coming together for me.

Marina looks to be in her twenties. She’s seeing a man in his late fifties, Orlando, the owner of a textile firm. They’re in love, moving in together, looking to go on a trip to Iguazú falls. Then Orlando has an aneurysm and, as Marina races to take him to the hospital, dies in the car.

Things will only get worse for Marina.

Chile is still a fundamentally macho country. Retrograde mentality instilled by the Catholic church still overrides basic human decency. Nevermind the age difference between her and Orlando, or that Orlando had left his wife to go with Marina. Marina is a trans woman. Once Orlando dies, his family members start tripping over each other to tell her what they think of her. Then an overeager cop starts asking questions about some bruises Orlando had, bruises we saw had an innocuous explanation. But on the situation, and coming from Marina’s mouth, the explanation is taken as the laziest excuse possible.

Una Mujer Fantástica” works as a drama. It’s hard to not feel sorry for Marina, who is just trying to be left alone and move on. There’s tension in waiting for her to either explode or melt down. There are some brilliant scenes. In a delirious sequence, we see her at the height of what might be a stress-related breakdown or drug fever. On a much calmer shot, she’s laying on a couch, naked, gazing into a mirror placed over her groin, her identity reflected on the area where her unseen genitalia is.

But then it just sputters out. Marina throws a fit. She says goodbye in what I expect it’s her head. It ends.

I liked it, for the most part. It’s well made. But I’m uncomfortable with the way it was all so nicely wrapped, with a bow on top and all. We get too many signs that Marina is losing it, and then, at the flick of a switch, it’s all good. She has recovered the only memento from the relationship that she cared about. She doesn’t seem to have any anger left. She has moved from singing latino covers in a club to choral with a quartet at a theater.

I’m not familiar with Sebastián Leilo’s filmography. There are comments about his first three films being very dark. Maybe he wanted to compensate while keeping things positive here.

Without the last grounded, homely scene before she goes to work, the ending would be more ambiguous. But as it is, it feels like cheating, like Leilo treats Marina not as a character but as a way to catalogue offences against trans people. If the message was supposed to be an unambiguous “it gets better”, at least a scene of how she got Diabla back would have improved things.

The impression I get is like Leilo wasn’t sure what he wanted the movie to feel like. That’s the wrong fit for a story about a woman who, regardless of what Chilean society might think of her, is so comfortable in her own skin.

Originally published at filmsnark.tumblr.com.


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