Review | A Fantastic Woman

Monday, March 12, 2018
One of my resolutions (does anyone else still make them?!) this year was to see more films, read more books and in general be more cultured *ooh err*. Last week I spent a long weekend in London town and I ticked all three of those boxes by seeing two new films, finishing a book and buying a new one and gazing at art around the Tate modern - can I get a woop woop? And we're only in March. Come at me 2018.

Anyway, being arty farty aside - the two films I saw were Lady Bird and the other was A Fantastic Woman. I'm sure everyone and their dog has been talking about Lady Bird, so I doubt I have to say too much about that film - it's had so much exposure, 5 stars everywhere, so all you really need to know is that you should go and see it because it really is great. However, the film that totally blew my expectations out the water was Una Mujer Fantástica - it's original Spanish title. Whilst Lady Bird is your traditional coming-of-age story (and a heart-warming one at that), A Fantastic Woman crossed boundaries that I've never seen before in cinema. This is the first ever time I've seen a transgender protagonist. Either that means such films do already exist and I need to expand my horizons a bit or they just don't get enough coverage in mainstream cinema.

**spoilers ahead**

A Fantastic Woman tells the story of Marina, a daytime waitress who transforms into a nightclub singer in the evening. She is in an intimate relationship with Orlando, whom she has just moved in with. They are unapologetically in love, displaying their affection amongst a quiet restaurant over dinner. The same evening back at home, Orlando wakes up feeling ill. He collapses and later on at the hospital is announced dead from a brain aneurysm. Marina's life literally changes in the matter of one evening. Very soon Marina's life begins to turn upside down as she is suddenly without her lover and immediately having to deal with the aftermath of his death. The doctor's view Marina with suspicion, did she have anything to do with his death? What are the bruises on him from? And the injury to his head? Did she have something to do with it? While Marina is quite literally poked and prodded with these questions, we feel huge empathy for her as she struggles to both plead innocent whilst retaining her dignity.

We begin to realise that Marina is not necessarily just being suspected guilty for Orlando's death but a deeper, darker truth reveals itself about those around her. Prior to this, Orlando had a wife and children who he strayed from once he formed a relationship with Marina. This is evident in the way the family treat her following Orlando's death, who are just as suspicious as the doctors and police who accuse her. 

Marina is dismissed by the family, threatened at times, abused. Her face is disfigured with sellotape and her body thrown out of a car at one point, displaying the utter disrespect the family have for her and inability to accept her as a woman, as a human being, as a member of the family. They often say "I don't even know what to call you, what are you?". They don't even want to call her by her chosen female name and instead call her by her old name, Daniel. They talk to her as if Marina doesn't exist.

Marina is in fact a fantastic woman, who withstands this torment and abuse from Orlando's family and attends his funeral though she is warned not to. Day in and out, she never alters herself or changes herself to please anyone else. We feel everything that Marina feels, we see it all through her eyes, the grief, the anger, the silence. The viewer feels her pain when she imagines Orlando in the back of her car, through a reflection in her sunglasses and amongst a busy crowd in a nightclub. My heart truly ached for Marina watching this, and any other LGBTQ person that has to tolerate such abuse, because, well a film like this wouldn't have to be made if it wasn't a reality for so many.

The film is luminous in colour, beautifully shot through the eyes and ears of Marina. If you're going to go and see one film this year, make sure it's A Fantastic Woman.