One Indeed - A Fantastic Woman
I love films that show me lives I will never live; that somehow capture the contours of lives totally unlike my own, while still acutely illuminating the ways in which we are all the same. At their most basic, our deepest desires are the same. We want what we need—safety, survival and love. A Fantastic Woman puts all of these needs in sharp relief through the eyes of Marina. Her struggles become ours for what feels like a few brief moments, but there is no doubt you will be left with a deep sense of how much you actually have in common with her.
Marina Vidal (played by Daniela Vega) is a transgender singer, performing in lounges and hotels. She meets and falls in love with Orlando (played by Francisco Reyes), an older gentleman who happens to be in the audience one night she is singing. He is smitten, and the two begin an ill-fated romance. After a brief time together, Orlando falls ill. Only Marina is with him when he collapses and she rushes him to the hospital. When they arrive at the hospital, she starts to have to face a multitude of challenges when all she would like to do is care for her loved one and grieve when he dies.
Hospital staff, Orlando’s family, and even the police, challenge her role in his life and death. She is confronted by indignity after indignity when all she is really trying to do is move on with her life. Her status as a trans-woman complicates what would otherwise be a sad, but rather routine story. And what really drives the story home is the idea that for Marina, this is what routine looks like.
There are so many frames of this movie that will be stuck in my head for some time, but most of them involve Daniela Vega’s pained face as she channels the pure anguish of some of the moments Marina faces. When her character’s grief is compounded by the everyday grief that comes with being a trans-person, you feel every bit of it. Somehow, although portraying a life filled with headwinds, Vega manages to make this feel like a hopeful story. Marina’s story never seems to break her.
In the end, Marina even gets a bit of the last laugh by using her gender identity to her advantage in one of the film’s more thought-provoking sequences. While the film is fixated on her gender identity, that fixation feels necessary because so much of life ignores marginal stories like hers. If you are someone who is open to seeing the humanity in others, there is a lot here for you to discover. While the writing isn’t necessarily the sharpest, the emotions certainly are. Equal parts grief and prejudice, you just might find yourself with an altered worldview.
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