TIFF17 | Everyday Transphobia Gets a Spotlight in A Fantastic Woman

Marina (Daniela Vega), the transgender heroine in Chilean director Sebastián Lelio’s A Fantastic Woman, is a beautiful and talented lounge musician whose life is plunged into a precarious situation when her boyfriend dies unexpectedly on her birthday.

Marina has just moved in with Orlando (Francisco Reyes), a divorcé who is twice her age. He wakes up in the middle of the night, suffers an aneurism, falls down a flights of stairs on a rush to the hospital and dies moments after arriving in the ER. After the doctor reveals the devastating news Marina instinctively slips away before the authorities and family members begin prying.

A Fantastic Woman is an essential tale that honestly showcases the everyday plight of trans woman. As Marina’s heart-renching predicament unravels, the audience begins to understand the constant discrimination she faces: at the hospital (the doctor awkwardly asks what her relationship to the deceased when it’s clear they are a couple), at the police station (an officer refuses to call her by her preferred pronoun, insulting her with he), and by her dead lovers family who cast her away like a pervert rather than recognizing her grief (she’s banned from the funeral and told to evacuate the apartment immediately).

Through her trials and tribulations Marina stands as an inspiring hero. Many will find it shocking to witness how she internalizes her sadness but plenty of LGBT folks will relate all to easily. She’s just lost her true love and rather than showing how a trans woman grieves, the film showcases how so many marginalized in the trans community have to hide away their pain in order to fight against the hate and misunderstanding the world presents to them day after day. While Mariana consistently asks for respect, she’s put face to face with her lovers vicious son (who kidnaps her to scare her out of their lives), and the cold-heartedness of Orlando’s ex-wife.

In A Fantastic Woman, Mariana is ultimately on a quest to prove she is not the femme fatale her adversaries make her out to be. It’s a much needed narrative that finally positions trans characters from the margins to the well deserved spotlight.

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