Rated: R for language, sexual content, nudity and a disturbing assault. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: November 17, 2017 Released by: Sony Pictures
Chilean helmer Sebastian Lelio has made a redolent, compassionate drama about a transgender woman (toiling as a waitress while trying to make it as a singer) facing adversity with flights of fantasy and wrenching naturalism. One that is a laudable entry from the South American country for the upcoming (90th) Academy Awards in the Best Foreign-Language Film category.
A Fantastic Woman (in Spanish with English subtitles) with resonant reflection looks at disenfranchisement through its lead character Marina (trans-actress Daniela Vega) after her beloved older Orlando (Francisco Reyes) suddenly perishes from an aneurysm. From her mourning and relationship to the death of the man who left his family and planned a trip to Iguazu Falls after a birthday gathering, Lelio and Vega let the contours remain balanced and in control in this stricken character.
Lelio did quite well on the art-house circuit a few years ago with the tenderness surrounding the precariousness of a middle-age divorcee in Gloria. Marina's defense mechanism which Orlando had penetrated is now disgraced again after his rescue from her troubled tumult. Especially when the fraught after dealing with her sister and brother-in-law deals with an intrusive hospital physician and a detective as prostitution and her official name "Daniel" comes up.
Orlando's former wife forbids Marina from attending his services and his adult son Bruno displays much callousness and increasing hostility as familial affront mounts. The expressive refractive lensing from Benjamin Echazarreta has a prepossessing elegance from a visage gazing through a window to the dire straits of a foundation, as well as a feverish nightclub. And, then the indecency about Marina having reassignment surgery as camera placement almost treads a fine line.
A sweet, impactful orchestral score with a fluty through line goes well with the likes of a notable Aretha Franklin esteem-raising paean when Marina initially confronts a scornful woman. Don't be fooled, the moniker is very apt from the surprisingly gripping Vega framing it with her vocals that concludes with subliminally dramatic success.