A Fantastic Woman

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
A Fantastic Woman Movie Poster Image
Powerful story of trans woman's grief; language, sex, nudity
  • R
  • 2018
  • 100 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Tale of love and grief fully celebrates resilience, triumph over adversity, and individual dignity. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Central character is, by turns, vulnerable and strong, despairing and proactive, self-effacing and proud. "Marina" is a unique individual, a memorable and sympathetic portrait of multifaceted transsexual woman. Featured characters are either sympathetic, uncomfortable, bigoted, or cruel.

Violence

A fall down stairs. A woman is menaced and physically assaulted/degraded by a carload of raging villains.

Sex

Sexual identity is at the core of this film. Both romantic scenes of passion (kissing, embracing, undressing), and scenes of sexual intimidation and ridicule. Partial nudity in multiple sequences, during some of which a transsexual woman is humiliated. Implied oral sex in a dance club. 

Language

Swearing and slurs throughout: "f--k," "s--t," "f--got," "a--hole." 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Alcohol in social settings; marijuana, vaping.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that A Fantastic Woman, a Chilean drama with English subtitles, is about a transsexual woman in the aftermath of the death of her lover, a prosperous and charming businessman. The film, which stars a transgender woman in the title role, won multiple international awards, including the 2018 Academy Award for Best Foreign-Language Film. The leading character's sexual identity puts her both under scrutiny and under siege as she negotiates her loss. Romantic sequences show passionate kissing, undressing, and the beginnings of lovemaking with some nudity. In other scenes, the heroine and her partially nude body are subjected to sexual ridicule and intimidation. One scene implies oral sex. Language is harsh ("f--k," "s--t," "a--hole") and includes offensive slurs directed at the lead (i.e., "f--got"). An unsettling violent act occurs when the heroine is threatened and brutally assaulted by a group of men. Drinking and marijuana smoking and vaping are shown. With its mature themes and fearless portrayal of a transgender woman, this is a film suitable only for older teens and up.

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What's the story?

Marina (Daniela Vega) and Orlando (Francisco Reyes) are in love in A FANTASTIC WOMAN. It's an unconventional match. He's a much older, affluent entrepreneur; she's a struggling singer who works as a waitress to support herself, and Marina is a transsexual. When Orlando suffers an aneurysm in the home they share, Marina tries desperately to get him to a hospital and save his life. Despite best efforts, Orlando dies. Maria is, at first, beset by the loss. But her private grief is quickly interrupted by the realities of their disparate situations. Police have questions about the death itself. Orlando's ex-wife is barely civil when she asks for the return of his car. Bruno, Orlando's crass and furious son, wants her out of the apartment immediately. Marina is initially compliant, but the demands get harsher and more humiliating for her. When she's told that she won't be welcome at Orlando's memorial, and may even lose Diabla, the dog they shared, Marina begins to fight back for her right to mourn and for her right to exist as the woman she is. 

Is it any good?

Sexuality and gender identity issues are front and center in this impressive, heartfelt film, blending seamlessly with the universal themes of dignity, bigotry, and loss. Daniela Vega's performance is unforgettable. She's on-screen for almost every moment of A Fantastic Woman, a window into the heart and mind of a complex woman who has been drawn with empathy and respect. Other characters are often less nuanced, but given the smoldering situation, those excesses can be forgiven. Director Sebastien Lelio, whose award-winning film Gloria (2013) is about an equally extraordinary woman, and who co-wrote the script, has made an intense and intimate film, appropriate only for older teens.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how movies reflect society as it evolves. Do you think that A Fantastic Woman could have been so widely released and acclaimed only a few years ago? What significant changes in attitudes have paved the way for a film like this one?

  • What role does sex play in the characters' lives? Is it portrayed as loving and meaningful? How does Marina's transsexuality impact the plot and the relationships? 

  • What character strengths and skills (i.e., courage, self-control) did Marina call upon to work her way through her grief and the mistreatment she suffered? 

  • Was the ending satisfying? How did the events surrounding Orlando and his death ultimately have a positive impact on Marina's life despite her sadness?

Movie details

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