Transgender actress Daniela Vega makes a triumphant debut in A Fantastic Woman (La Mujer Fantastico), playing the role of a transgender woman fighting for respect in modern-day Chile. But this is way more than one-issue movie.
This year's Foreign Language Oscar winner, Sebastián Lelio's engrossing film is a resonant and stylishly-told story about the basic human right to live with dignity and carve out one's identity in the world.
Chilean filmmaker Lelio (along with his co-screenwriter, Gonzalo Maza) made the zesty woman-over-50 movie, Gloria, a few years back.
They continue to delve into the psyche of interesting females here with protagonist Marina Vidal (Vega), a cafe waitress by day who croons sultry ballads in a bar at night.
|Reyes and Vega; frisky and tender|
She shares an apartment in Santiago with her partner of several years, frisky, tender Orlando (Francisco Reyes), a divorced businessman a few decades older than she is.
But one night, in bed, Orlando becomes disoriented. Marina rushes him to the hospital — where, soon after, he dies.
But the devastating shock of her loss is just the beginning of her troubles.
That not all of the issues she faces are gender identity-based broadens the film's scope. Marina's plight as an outsider forbidden the rights of the legal kinship group is universal.
Not "tough" in any clichéd way, she's determined to pursue her rights and stay true to her selfhood.
Performer and trans activist Vega was Lelio's consultant on the film, introducing him to contemporary trans culture. But it wasn't until the very end of the process, when the script was completed and the cameras were ready to roll, that it occurred to Lelio that Vega would be perfect to play Marina.
So the role was not exactly written for Vega, but thank heavens for serendipity — her performance is outstanding.