Oscars Sunday is only just a couple of days away now and one film up for an award for Best Foreign Picture is Sebastian Lelio’s A Fantastic Woman, which screened at this year’s Glasgow Film Festival.


Daniel Vega is at the heart of this story, as trans-woman Marina, a character that finds herself dealing with grief, loneliness and refusal from society after she loses her partner Orlando (Francisco Reyes). It’s perhaps best leaving details at that. I went into A Fantastic Woman knowing little about the plot, and it made for such a surprising film. Lelio and co-writer Conzalo Mazo’s screenplay here is one that keeps its cards close to its chest; it’s a film shrouded in mystery – even our central character of Marina remains quite the enigma throughout – so, for that reason, I want to disclose as little as I possibly can about it. Because it’s quite the film.

Lelio’s drama is a socio-commentary, shedding light on just how cruel and unforgiving society can be to those it deems “different”. But it’s also an astute character-study, courting the hardships of grief and loss on top of the hardships already being suffered by Marina as the world refuses to accept her for who she is and who she wants to be. Marina’s entire life is put to scrutiny after Orlando passes early on – her protection from the harsh judgement of society; people deny calling her Marina, shouting obscenities at her in the street, abusing her for her choices, making her strip and calling her Daniel. The film really strikes a heart-wrenching chord in its examination of the abuse transgender people go through. It’s all too harrowingly real – a horrifying reflection of our society as Lelio puts a mirror up to the real world and real problems. But more than just an urgent commentary, A Fantastic Woman is a poignant character piece – anchored by one of the best performances of the year in Vega’s subtle, reserved Marina; a character of little words, yet so much emotional resonance.

The film isn’t without its flaws; it shrouds Marina in such a cloud of ambiguity, denying to really peel too much away and safeguarding her as a character for so long that it takes a while before we can really connect to our lead and empathise with her and understand her. It’s also quite a slow-burner, but the film does feel like it takes a little too long to find its footing and its groove. But, once it does, it hurls into becoming quite the explosive, poignant drama. Sebastian Lelio’s A Fantastic Woman is a brilliant film: it’s a very human, very moving study of a character dealing with not only her own grief and inner torment at losing her love but forced to deal with the scrutiny and judgement of society. It’s a subtle, nuanced affair that is gorgeously told and masterfully directed and one that will stay with you long after the credits roll.


A Fantastic Woman is a brilliant, powerful and subtle character piece - one that also offers up a harrowing reflection of how society fails to accept others, and the torment it can cause to those just wanting to live their life as they wish.

Tagged as

About the Author

Awais Irfan
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.

Related Posts