Mar 5, 2018

REVIEW: A Fantastic Woman (dir. Lelio)

'In another filmmaker’s hands —Almodovar, say — Marina might have been a tower of righteous, high-heeled indignation, delivering one stinging retort after another. Lelio’s has loosed such a force of nature before, in his  2013 breakthrough film, Gloria, about a divorced 28-year-old on the single circuit, determined not to go gently into the good night. Here, he takes the opposite tack, with mixed results. We don’t see Marina’s grief for a long while. Instead, she takes out her anger on a small punching bag that hangs by the door of her apartment and numbly walks the streets of Santiago, seeing Orlando everywhere. It is a fiercely internalized performance — the anti Almodovar — Vega’s expression hovering between quiet dignity, sublimated anger and a look of steely defiance that is, in turn, further provocation to the outside world. There is a thread of masochism here — Marina’s refusal to explain or defend herself edging into something more belligerent and self-martyring. When bruises on Orlando’s body draw the attention of a detective (Amparo Noguera)  who specializes in sex offenses, Marina skips appointments and obfuscates, and thus has to endure a humiliating physical examination. “How should I treat him?” whispers the medical orderly as if she were not standing right there. This is awful but it was avoidable: the detective was initially sympathetic.  You may lose count of the number of scenes in which Marina is taunted, insulted, threatened, roughed up, or labelled a monster, with Vega rising above it all, a wronged saint, impassive and long-suffering. The conception of her character is at times only a trifle more nuanced than that punching ball.' — from my Sunday Times review