A FANTASTIC WOMAN — Review by Susan Granger

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Filmmaker Sebastian Lelio examines the emotional stigma of transgender in this sensitive, Oscar-winning Chilean film. In Santiago, Martina Vidal (Daniela Vega) and Orlando Onetto (Francisco Reyes) are in love. She’s a young waitress/cabaret singer; he’s 20 years older, the owner of a printing company. After celebrating Martina’s birthday one evening, Orlando becomes ill, suffering a fatal aneurysm. Martina rushes him to the emergency room, but he dies on the operating table. Continue reading…

Instead of being able to mourn her loss, grieving Martina is suddenly viewed with distrust because of her sexual identity. To the hospital staff and police, she’s a suspicious person. To Orlando’s family, she’s perverted because she’s a trans woman.

A detective, Adriana Cortes (Amparo Noguera), subsequently visits Martina at the restaurant where she works, explaining that she’s from the Sexual Offenses Unit.

“Was he paying you?” she asks.

“We were a couple,” Martina answers truthfully, adding, “It was a healthy, consensual relationship between two adults.”

As bitter conflict erupts, she is forbidden to attend his funeral, and Orlando’ grown son (Niccolas Saavedra) confiscates their dog, threatening to evict her from the flat she shared with his father. At issue is the fact that Martina is still considered, legally, a man.

Perhaps Orlando’s estranged wife Sonia (Aline Kuppenheim) best epitomizes our patriarchal society’s ignorance and confusion, noting, “When I look at you, I don’t know what I’m seeing.”

Charismatic Daniela Vega delivers an anguished, transcendent performance. Discovered by Sebastian Lelio (“Gloria”) as a LGBTQ “cultural consultant,” she convinced him that he needed a transgender actor.

“Her uniqueness pushed the script further,” Lelio clarifies. “I was trying to make the script to be as complex as she was.”

As it turns out, Daniela Vega is the first transgender protagonist, propelling Chile’s first-ever Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “A Fantastic Woman” is an empathetic, ethically compelling 8, tender and well-timed.

EDITORS NOTE: A Fantastic Woman was selected as AWFJ’s Movie of the Week, where you will find additional reviews. Additionally, Leslie Combemale profiled Daniela Vega in our February 2018 SPOTLIGHT, and Jessica Zack provided her fascinating interview with Daniela Vega and director Sebastien Lelo. A Fantastic Woman was also nominated for the 2017 AWFJ EDA Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.