** ½ (out of 4)
When it comes to misfortune in romance, you can’t get much worse than Marina (Daniela Vega), the trans-female protagonist of Sebastián Lelio’s A Fantastic Woman. At the start of the film, she’s in a relationship with an older man named Orlando (Francisco Reyes), and she appears to have it all: we watch as they celebrate her birthday at a restaurant, talk about vacation plans, and make love in his apartment. Later that same night, however, Orlando wakes up with a pounding headache – and in the span of mere hours, he collapses, tumbles down a flight of stairs, and dies at a nearby hospital. From there, moreover, Marina’s problems only get worse. Thanks to her gender identity, the police become convinced that she had a hand in Orlando’s death, Orlando’s son tries to evict her from Orlando’s apartment – and Orlando’s ex-wife goes so far as to bar her from attending Orlando’s funeral.
The drama that Lelio weaves out of this depressing premise undeniably has plenty to recommend it.