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'A Fantastic Woman' offers a vibrant portrayal of a trans woman's struggles

Other | Tuesday 6th March 2018 | David

Attaching its timely themes to a heroine that it’s impossible not to root for, it’s no mystery how A Fantastic Woman managed to take home the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film over the weekend. Enriching its exceedingly human story with endearing melodrama, Sebastián Lelio’s film carries viewers along on a wave of empathy helped in no small part by a layered and riveting performance from Chilean actress Daniela Vega.

Vega plays Marina, a resilient transgender woman faced with an escalating series of hardships and injustices in the aftermath of her older boyfriend Orlando’s passing. With Orlando’s unexpected death arousing hostility and suspicion in his immediate family and the local authorities, Lelio’s feature can be read as a piercing review of the stigma faced by trans men and women in our current times.

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While most people in today’s society will display a basic level of tolerance and courtesy towards trans people, the drama reveals how concealed prejudices still rise to the surface in times of heavy emotion. Orlando’s family even forbids Marina from coming to the wake of the man she loved - and events take a violent turn when she shows up regardless.

In trying to summarise the difficulties faced by an entire group of people in today’s society, the specifics of Marina’s story can feel a little underdeveloped. Marina’s feelings for Orlando, in particular, would have benefited from some fleshing out, given how crucial their shared emotional connection is to her journey. All the same, Lelio and Vega deliver a vibrant, compellingly crafted picture of a headstrong outsider, allowing us to share in her grief, loneliness and outrage as she pushes forward into what are hopefully better times.

A Fantastic Woman is in UK cinemas now!

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