Magazine article Screen International

'A Fantastic Woman': Berlin Review

Magazine article Screen International

'A Fantastic Woman': Berlin Review

Article excerpt

Dir. Sebastián Lelio. Chile, USA, Germany, Spain. 2017. 104 mins

Marina (Daniela Vega) and Orlando (Francisco Reyes) are in love. Despite a twenty-year age gap, they plan to spend their lives together. He lefthis wife and family for her. But after a birthday celebration in which he promises to take her on a trip to Iguazu Falls, Orlando is taken gravely ill. He dies in hospital. And Marina finds that, as a transgender woman, everything is called into question - their relationship, her role in his death, her right to grieve for the man she loved. Driven by a powerhouse performance by mesmerising transgender actress Vega, the fifth feature from Sebastián Lelio combines urgent naturalism with occasional flickers of fantasy to impressive, and wrenchingly emotional effect.

The film follows Leilo's acclaimed previous feature, Gloria, which also premiered in Berlinale competition and won the Silver Bear for Best Actress for Paulina Garcia. And it's hard to imagine that A Fantastic Woman will go home empty-handed - this is a quality package on every level. Producing credits for Pablo Larrain and Maren Ade, and an exemplary score by Matthew Herbert, add weight to a film which already ticks plenty of boxes for potential arthouse success. Sony Pictures Classics have acquired North America, Australia and New Zealand rights. It goes without saying that festival interest will be keen.

With this satisfying account of a few days in the life of a poised, resilient transgender woman and Gloria's warm and contoured portrait of a divorcee in late middle age, Leilo displays a knack for getting under the skin of female characters who, for no fault of their own, find themselves somewhat marginalised by society.

Although we mainly get to spend time with Marina while she is shellshocked by grief and fraying at the edges, and nothing is overtly stated, we get a sense, from exchanges with her sister and brother-in-law, of a chaotic, embattled life which found an anchor in Orlando. …

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