<script async src="//pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/js/adsbygoogle.js"></script> <!-- Showbiz Portal Bottom 1 300x250, created 10/15/10 --> <ins class="adsbygoogle" style="display:inline-block;width:300px;height:250px" data-ad-client="ca-pub-1272644781333770" data-ad-slot="2530175011"></ins> <script> (adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({}); </script>
Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Mar 29, 2020


‘A FANTASTIC WOMAN’ is the first film from Chile to win the Oscar best foreign language film prize. It works mainly because of the affecting performance of Daniela Vega in the title role of a transwoman. She invests her role with so much heart and soul it’s impossible not to be moved by the depth and sincerity of her portrayal.

Daniela plays Marina Vega, a waitress and aspiring singer who’s in a serious relationship with a 57-year old businessman, Orlando (Francisco Reyes). They’re happy, obviously loving and respecting each other.

He treats her to a birthday dinner and she’s about to move to his apartment so they can start living together. But later that night, Marina wakes up with Orlando sitting on their bed, looking dizzy and disoriented.

As she takes him to the hospital, he falls down the stairs and has bruises and contusions. He eventually dies of aneurysm, but suspicions of possible foul play come up because of his other injuries.

A female detective investigates Marina and even interrogates her and subjects her to an unwarranted and very humiliating body search, making her strip in front of a photographer. Orlando’s brother, Gabo (Luis Gnecco), is sympathetic to Marina, but the ex-wife, Sonia (Alice Kuppenheim) and older son Bruno (Nicolas Saavedra) are both very cruel to her and openly insults her.

Even if she’s very accommodating to them, Sonia is mean, even saying that her being a transgender is a perversion, calling her a chimera and questioning the morality of his consensual relationship with Orlando. Obviously, hindi matanggap na ipinagpalit siya ng asawa niya sa bakla.

Sonia also asks Marina to surrender Orlando’s car to her and she and Bruno both order her to vacate the apartment right away. She’s also told not to show up at Orlando’s wake or attend his funeral. She is not even allowed to grieve on her own, which is a simple human right. When she tries to, she is abducted and hauled inside a car where three men maltreat her.

So much empathy is created for Marina that we totally understand and commiserate with her plight. We just wish we’d been given a bit more background information on how the lovers met and what made Orlando fall so much in love with Marina.

But when we meet them, the 57-year old Orlando is already preparing his gift for the much younger Marina on her birthday, a musical cake and tickets for their vacation in the famous Iguazu Falls.

There are actors who have played transgender roles effectively, like Hilary Swank in “Boys Don’t Cry” (she won an Oscar) and Eddie Redmayne in “Danish Girl”, but they’re just acting.

As Marina, Daniela Vega is said to be Chile’s first openly transgender model and actress. One thing we like in her is she never goes over the top in making us feel her loss, her grief and her fighting instincts as she tries to survive in a generally uncaring world.

All throughout, she is not shown breaking down despite her heartbreaking experiences. She is just shown venting her frustrations on a punching bag. But her fury finally breaks loose at the crematorium grounds when Sonia and Bruno verbally attack her again and she climbs on top of their car and jumps up and down.

The film is told with some magic realism. In her grief, we see Marina in a dance sequence in a disco with her wearing a fabulously glittering costume with some chorus dancers. While walking in the street, we see her going against a very strong windstorm that tries to stop her on her tracks.

There are many mirror shots, like one involving her seeing herself in a big massive mirror being transported in the streets and, in a bathroom mirror, it is not easy to distinguish Marina from her reflection. In a nude shot, we see her front being covered only by a small compact mirror perched on her crotch.

These mirrored reflections show the disconnect between how Marina sees herself and how people perceive of her.

At the crematorium grounds, she sees a tall ghostly figure of a man from afar and follows him inside the crematorium itself where she finally gets the chance to say a loving farewell to Orlando before he turns into ashes.

The last few scenes show us Marina moving on in her life, jogging with her dog (which Orlando gave her but which Bruno wants to get from her) and participating in a recital where she gets to sing a classical song as a soprano.

Ultimately, despite the intolerance and discrimination this transgender experiences in her life, the movie is very life-affirming. Marina manages to rise again up after almost everyone else tried to tear her down.

This is not the usual gay coming out movie. For writer-director Sebastian Lelio, it’s more of a celebration of the resiliency of the human spirit as the fantastic woman of the title struggles and succeeds to get her life back.