A Fantastic Woman
The one word that kept coming to mind while watching this Chilean Best Foreign Picture nominee, was "striking". I felt like I was being struck constantly, by the storyline, by the visuals, by lead actress Daniela Vega. To say that this is a difficult movie is something of an understatement, but everyone involved is up to the task.
The film revolves around Marina (Vega), whose older partner suddenly dies, and how she must now navigate her role in her partner's family. She has exactly one ally in that family, her partner's brother, but the rest of the family runs the gamut from petty to full-on abusive towards Marina. No one can understand the relationship she had had with her partner, especially her partner's ex-wife, and she must spend the film defending herself over and over to people she should not have to explain herself to.
The film explores otherness through Marina's identity and people's inability to see herself the way she wishes to be seen. She was able to seek refuge in the arms of her partner, but now that he's gone, she's been left wayward, as everything is slowly taken away from her.
Marina is one of the most compelling protagonists I've seen in a very long time. There are so few trans stories that are being told in film, and if they are, RARELY are they portrayed by trans actors/actresses. And this is a trans story and a beautifully depicted one. Though we are only with Marina for about a week or so, we come to understand her, her life, and the way she moves and interacts with the world. Marina must pick her battles with her partner's family, whether it be not reacting to being misgendered, or giving up her car, because we know that these are things she has to deal with on a regular basis. We see her fighting for herself against people who refuse to even acknowledge who she is.
We are with Marina every step of the way, from a humiliating experience at a detective agency, to trying to seek solace in a queer bar, to being verbally and physically abused by her partner's son, to her snapping and jumping on her partner's ex-wife's car. Each moment is filled with such raw emotion, and Vega is so powerful in every scene.
The film has been recognized at the Academy Awards and has been nominated for Best Foreign Film but I would be remiss if I didn't say that I believe Vega has been snubbed in the Best Actress category. I could not take my eyes off of her for a moment and I truly believe her performance is one of the most complex and intricate of the films I've seen all year. I won't go so far as to say who I think she should replace within the Best Actress category, but it's a damn shame she wasn't given the recognition she deserves.
This film is a true masterpiece and deserves every bit of attention it's receiving. If you have the opportunity to see it in theatres, make the trip.