Review – A Fantastic Woman

The true and rightful winner of Best Actress at every film festival this season should be Daniela Vega and her extraordinary turn in Sebastian Leilo’s equally brilliant A Fantastic Woman. Delving deep into a situation of marginalisation, loss, and aching humanity, the film cements Leilo as one of cinema’s finest character writer/directors and Vega as a force to be reckoned with. A flat-out must see!

The representation of transgender people get a welcomed boost with A Fantastic Woman, Sebastian Leilo’s fifth feature, which proffers a situation that puts you in the middle of an extraordinary circumstance. One that gender normative people would take for granted, yet one that threatens to tear our heroine apart.

Marina (a powerhouse Daniela Vega) and her partner Orlando (Francisco Reyes) are very much in love and devout. Though an age gap separates them, he is some 20 years her senior, you cannot deny the connection they have. When Orlando succumbs to illness that sees him fall off this mortal coil, the grieving Marina’s world is further shaken when it is revealed she is trangender.

I’ll not divulge any further into the plot or its revelations as that would take from the sheer evocative pleasure (and pain) that the uncompromising and wholly engaging A Fantastic Woman is.

Anchored by a thunderous, powerful central turn by Vega, the whole movie hinges on Marina and you simply cannot take your eyes or thoughts off her. Vega’s realisation of Marina on screen is completely formed, she is real, she is damaged, she is vulnerable, she is hilarious, she is frustrating, she is real…

It’s a credit to Leilo, whose strength in delivering towering female characters is on show again after the stunning Gloria, that his fearlessness and delicacy are in equal measure here in collaboration with his lead star.

A film to champion, A Fantastic Woman is a huge step forward in transgender representation but, more than that, it’s simply an outstanding, emotionally engaging film that shouldn’t be missed. And yes, this contains the most fearless performance of the year. Dear Cinema, Daniela Vega has arrived!