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Daniela Vega as Marina in A Fantastic Woman.

Sony Pictures Classics

3 out of 4 stars

Title
A Fantastic Woman
Written by
Sebastian Lelio and Gonzalo Maza
Directed by
Sebastian Lelio
Starring
Daniela Vega
Classification
14A
Country
USA
Language
English

The Chilean Oscar nominee for best foreign-language film is filled with strikingly crafted shots, especially of its protagonist Marina, a nightclub singer and waitress in Santiago. But it's not the deft cinematography that won A Fantastic Woman the nod. What is even more arresting about Sebastian Lelio's film is its sympathetic but clear-eyed portrait of a transgender woman ostracized by the family of her older lover after his unexpected death. Where other filmmakers have used cisgender actors to cautiously unveil sentimental stories – remember Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl? – Lelio relies on the trans actor Daniela Vega to bring her own truth to the story. In the script Lelio co-wrote with Gonzalo Maza, the lover's family may be conveniently ghastly and the authorities who investigate the death puzzlingly erratic (as the film flirts unsuccessfully with mystery), but a quietly honest centre never wavers.

A Fantastic Woman opens Feb. 9 in Toronto, Feb. 16 in Montreal.

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