Una mujer fantástica [A Fantastic Woman] (2017)

Una mujer fantástica
Director: Sebastián Lelio
Writer: Sebastián Lelio, Gonzalo Maza
Cast: Daniela Vega, Francisco Reyes, Luis Gnecco, Aline Küppenheim, Nicolás Saavedra, Amparo Noguera, Trinidad González, Néstor Cantillana
Seen on: 20.9.2021

Content Note: (critical treatment of) transmisia

Plot:
Marina (Daniela Vega) and Orlando (Francisco Reyes) have been dating for a while, and despite their considerable age difference, they are very happy. In fact, Marina is just moving in with Orlando. When Orlando suddenly dies, Marina’s world suddenly shatters. On top of her lover dying, she has to also deal with Orlando’s family who can’t accept Marina and the fact that she is trans.

Una mujer fantástica is an intense film about transmisia and the resilience that trans people have to develop in the face of it. Except survival, it has not much space for positivity though.

The film poster showing Marina (Daniela Vega) in a prism of colorful light.

Una mujer fantástica really gets into the excruciating details fo what it can mean to be trans. From small humiliations to big legal issues, Marina has to face it all in the film. When she should be able to mourn her partner, her love, she has to deal with his family laying claim to the car he gave her, to the apartment they shared and even to their dog. She has to face suspicions that she may have killed him, under the guise of concern for her own safety. She gets misgendered, deadnamed, and assaulted.

And through it all, Marina somehow keeps it together. Vega does an excellent job of giving Marina both steel and vulnerability as the film throws everything at her. I can’t imagine that you can watch the film and not leave it with an inkling of how fucking hard it is to be trans in our cisnormative, binary world.

Marina (Daniela Vega) wearing a glittering coat and heavy make-up in a pool.

But that’s where things started to taste a little sour for me. Because it is not just hard and aweful to be trans. It’s also beautiful and joyful. It is liberating to be who you are, and to find other people who have been in the position as you – to discover a community. None of that is present in this film, though. It takes a long time before we realize that Marina has people in her life (aside from Orlando that is), but those relationships remain superficial. And there are no other trans people in her life, apparently.

I’m not trans myself, but I can imagine that it must be quite a chore to watch the film if you are. It’s a film made with a cis audience in mind, that’s for sure. That means, while it is well-made, engaging and very emotional overall, it remains woefully one-sided.

Marina (Daniela Vega) looking serious.

Summarizing: still worth seeing, but don’t expect too much happiness.

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