A Fantastic Woman (CIFF 2017)

Movies about transgender members of our community often don’t have the most tact. Typically, if these characters make it into the movies at all—and that, in and of itself, is a rarity—they are either handled poorly or treated as punchlines for jokes. A Fantastic Woman is a movie that doesn’t do this. Its lead, Marina (Daniela Vega), has to deal with the struggles of being a trans woman, but the movie treats its subject matter seriously. And, hey, it cast an actual trans actor in a trans role. That needs to happen more often.

The story follows Marina, who begins the film dating Orlando (Francisco Reyes). He soon passes away, which leads to his family, who had never quite liked Marina, deciding to investigate whether she had any involvement in his death. The fight she undergoes through the movie winds up mimicking what she had to go through her entire lifetime just to be … tolerated, I suppose, as a trans woman.

So, you’ve got a pretty decent—even if it’s relatively basic—plot, a lot of thematic depth, and a great lead performance from Daniela Vega. Sebastián Lelio directs the film with flash, making some scenes even feel a little magical. It’s emotionally engaging and empathetic, and it’s wonderful to watch. And maybe even to watch again—it’s rich enough to warrant that. A movie with “fantastic” in its title has a lot to live up to, and A Fantastic Woman does just that.

Conclusion: A Fantastic Woman is, well, a fantastic movie.

Recommendation: If and when A Fantastic Woman plays near you, and if it interests you in the slightest, you should check it out.

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