We live in a traditional society that thinks it can decide who has a right to love and who doesnt. A Fantastic Woman shows that everyone, no matter their identity, does.
Although in the last few years more movies with diverse characters and realities have been produced by the film industry, there’s no doubt that we're still a long way from equal representation on the screen. But how do we get there? The way the industry works is by making money, so the movies that get more funding and exposure tend to be the ones that sound the most profitable (the majority of these represent old social patterns disguised with modernity), while movies with more interesting realities are too often released as if the studio were only fulfilling a diversity quota. This is one of the main problems that the film industry is facing nowadays. Still, there are filmmakers who are dedicated to creating relatable stories that will not only entertain the audience, but also send an important message. That’s the case of the film we’re going to talk about, which, as the title suggests, is really one of, if not THE MOST important movie to come out this year.
What would it be like if the person you loved died right in your arms? Who has the right to love, according to society? These are some of the main premises behind A Fantastic Woman, the Oscar nominated film made by Chilean filmmaker Sebastián Lelio. The film tells the story of Marina, a transgender singer who takes her boyfriend to the hospital after he has an aneurysm. Through some flashbacks, we become witnesses of their caring relationship, but as soon as the story goes back to the real world, it all comes crashing down. Suddenly, she goes from grieving girlfriend to suspect in her partner's death just because of her gender.
Not only do people around her constantly judge her for being trans, but they also start assuming that her late boyfriend must have had some sort of “abnormal” fetish, and that Marina wasn’t more than a sex partner or even a prostitute selling her services to the old man. On top of that, there's the disrespectful treatment she gets from the doctors and police officers investigating the case (which they’re doing because they decide that the only possible explanation for the man's death is a crime), and it all gets even worse when his ex-wife and son show up.
Not only do they hate Marina for being trans, but they also believe that she's only a gold digger who didn't really love her partner. As a result, they ban her from the funeral, try to kick her out of the apartment she shared with Orlando, and even take her dog with them. But even after they’ve humiliated her in unthinkable ways, she’s determined to fight for her right to love, mourn, and do whatever she wants without anyone questioning her identity. The movie then asks the question of what love is and how society's moral standards can end up being greater than love itself. But more importantly, how society and its values decide what love is and what it isn’t, who is entitled to love and who isn't.
Throughout the movie, its amazing photography reminds that the story isn’t about anything other than Marina and her experience, and that it’s her time to be the protagonist in an industry where trans people are often left behind. In this way, the movie becomes a portrait of those emotions and the struggle Marina and other trans people face in order to be respected in a society that, just like the film industry, prefers to stick to what is "safe" and heteronormative. One of the best examples of this is the fact that the only moments we see Marina naked is in completely normal moments of solitude that have nothing to do with what most people would expect from a nude scene involving a trans person. It's an important and well-conceived moment in the movie that is essential to understand Marina and to confront people's views about identity and gender.
This film has already won the Teddy Award and the Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival, and it's currently nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language movie. Beyond the importance of awards and exposure, what matters is that a story like this is a great example of the diverse narratives we need right now. We were talking before about how the film and television industry must change and leave behind their conservative values, but it's much more than that: we need real characters that aren't the caricatures that we’ve been shown in the past. That’s why this is the most important movie of the year so far, and I wish it isn’t the only one.
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