As one of this year’s nominees for Best Foreign Film, Sebastián Lelio’s A Fantastic Woman covers a sensitive issue well, delivering a powerful film worthy of its Oscar nod. A Fantastic Woman follows aspiring singer Marina Vidal (Daniela Vega) through her experiences as a transgender woman who wants nothing more than to fulfill her life goals. Unfortunately, when her boyfriend Orlando (Francisco Reyes) suddenly dies, Marina finds herself unable to properly mourn, as Orlando’s family are quick to throw suspicion and scorn towards our protagonist when they discover her gender identity.
Where the casting directors could’ve potentially hired anyone to play Marina, in finding Daniela Vega, who herself is a trans woman, the performance backing the character of Marina has a level of authenticity that could only be achieved by an actor who could endure such experiences. In a character-driven drama, it pays to make the story feel genuine, and one of the easiest ways to do that is by getting an actor who can incorporate their personal struggles into the role. It’s a sign of a good actor when you think back on the movie and can’t remember a single moment when you thought the character was just somebody playing make-believe for a paycheck, as is the case with many other roles.
There’s certain allegorical sequences in this film, which while well made, feel like road bumps in the main narrative. These sequences hinder the pacing of the film, but ultimately this is my biggest gripe with the movie. They’re well-made scenes that might’ve been better incorporated into the story with some slight writing adjustments.
Overall, A Fantastic Woman is an excellent foreign drama that delivers a powerful story about a topic that isn’t covered very often in mainstream cinema. It’s worth finding a theater playing the movie, and I have high hopes for a potential Oscar win.
George Ibarra is a Senior at Florida International University, pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in English with a minor in Sociology, along with Certificates in Exile Studies and Film Studies.