Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The Ten Best Films of 2017: #9

Sebastián Lelio showed promise with his major debut, 2014's winning "Gloria" (with Paulina Garcia). He delivers in spades with "A Fantastic Woman (Una Mujer Fantástica)," a film of wit, sensitivity and Almodovar-esque style that marks Lelio as an important writer and director keenly attuned to the contemporary woman. The woman in this case is Marina, a trans woman played by the trans actress Daniela Vega (who appears in virtually every frame of the film and commands the screen). Marina is a singer and actress in love with an older businessman, Orlando. When Orlando takes ill in bed one night, Marina rushes him to the emergency room, but he dies upon arrival. Rather than sympathy, Marina is met with the contempt of most of Orlando's family (expressed politely by some, at least initially, and brutally by others) and the suspicion of the seen-it-all sex crimes detective who doubts that Orlando's bruises resulted from a fall on a staircase. "You will not come to the wake, or the funeral," Orlando's ex tells Marina, while the detective refuses to step out for the police doctor's physical examination of her. Vega walks the tightrope throughout, never making Marina a doormat even as she reacts to continual attacks on her dignity with remarkable equanimity and, despite the raw emotions in play, only rarely shows the full force of which she is capable.

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