Review / ‘A Fantastic Woman’ (M) *** and a half

IT’S not easy to differentiate between “androgynous” and “gynandrous” when referring to people (although “gynandrous” has a specific botanical meaning not relevant here).

However it’s classified, in Chilean writer/director Sebastian Lelio’s courageous and sensitive film, the meaning is the same. It’s transgender. A female personality in a male body. Or vice versa. The terms “shemale” or “tranny” are nowadays often used for the former. “Homosexual” covers either.

In Santiago, middle-aged Orlando (Francisco Reyes) and Marina (Daniela Vega) have celebrated his birthday. Their relationship is loving, passionate, caring. They go back to their apartment and presumably make love. But early next day, after falling down the stairs, Orlando dies in hospital.

Orlando has a wife, brothers, parents. Only one of the brothers, Gabo (Luis Gnecco) shows any sympathy for Marina who has suddenly lost all that she loves. The reason is more than having been the lover of an important member of the family. It is because Marina was born with a penis.

And so was Daniela Vega who plays her. She has a sweet mezzo-soprano voice, a beautiful body (whether she has undergone surgery I’ve been unable to ascertain and anyway, it’s nobody else’s business) and a presence that dominates a film covering a wide gamut of what being transgender means without apologising or proselytising about it.

Here’s what she’s been quoted as saying: “The end goal of the movie is to make sure that people ask questions, not to provide them with answers. It’s to make them reflect. I want them to raise questions.” Which strikes me as deserving consideration.

At Palace Electric and Dendy


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