Monday, March 26, 2018

Movie Review: A Fantastic Woman

The winner of the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film is a moving piece of cinema that tells a story not often seen on the big screen if ever. The movie deals with grief and bigotry and doesn't shy away from the more subtle forms of hate. Marina Vidal (Daniela Vega) has a fun night out with her lover Orlando (Francisco Reyes) and they are planning to go on a fun trip, though Orlando has misplaced the tickets. After making love and going to bed, Orlando wakes up with a bad headache. Marina takes him to the hospital but Orlando stumbles down the stairs as they are leaving. She makes it to the hospital but it is too late for Orlando who dies. Because Marina is not his family and the doctors are suspicious of her, they ask her to call one of Orlando's relatives and she leaves at a hurried pace. The police bring her back for questioning making a terrible situation even more traumatizing.

The shock of grief is sudden and it is clear that Marina is not sure how to deal with it. She has to go back to work as a waitress and Orlando's family starts to close in on his possession while keeping up a nasty air of suspicion. Orlando's ex-wife calls Marina demanding that she bring the car back. A sexual victims detective comes to her work and asks her questions about the bruises and cuts on Orlando wanting to know if Marina fought back against aggression. Marina's promises to call the detective later but she does not follow up while Orlando's son wakes her up and demands that she leave the apartment soon throwing in subtle accusations about Orlando's death.

The detective demands that she come into the police station and they subject her to embarrassing exposure to make sure she does not have any bruises on her arms. Orlando's family refuses to let Marina attend the wake or the funeral. She has an opera tutor that suffers from gout that she goes to in this time of trouble to hone her amazing singing voice. Orlando left his dog to Marina but his son takes it away and leaves the house a mess. Marina calls her sister who helps her move out but she is set on getting her dog back. She jumps out of the car and heads to the wake where he arrival is met with disgust and disdain. She is forced to leave but then Orlando's son and other relatives drive up and pull her into their car. They tape up her face and threaten her if she continues to show up to Orlando's memorial events.

They let her out and she wanders around the streets and finds a club. She hooks up with a man and then dances which turns into a dance number and an uplifting moment amid the negative events. She still insists on showing up at the funeral and even stomps on the family's car demanding the dog back. She sees the ghost of Orlando and follows him to where they are cremating his body. She is able to say goodbye before they burn his body. Life seems to fall into place somewhat for Marina after this incident. She gets the dog back and takes the stage with her beautiful singing voice.

A Fantastic Woman was a beautiful film with a moving story that expands the boundaries of filmgoers. I had not seen the film before the Academy Awards or I would have definitely chosen it as the winner. Daniela Vega is extraordinary in the main role and I hope this means many more roles for her in the future. I don't often get to see foreign films in the theater so I'm glad I took the time to watch this one while it was still available. I can't recall any other movie I've seen from Chile so seeing a movie set in Santiago is also interesting. 


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