Marina (Daniela Vega: The Guest) is enjoying her birthday until boyfriend Orlando (Francisco Reyes: Neruda) has an aneurysm. She rushes him to the hospital, where he dies.
And her nightmare begins.
Because she’s a transgender woman, a doctor suspects her of harm and calls the police. They assume she’s a sex worker and Orlando a client she has injured, perhaps out of self-defense. Humiliating questions follow.
Orlando’s family’s reaction is worse. They see Marina as a pervert who dragged Orlando into a life of sin and debauchery. She’s banned from his funeral and forced out of their apartment. She even loses her dog.
Marina tries to put her life back together, contending with how others perceive her.
A Fantastic Woman is a fantastic movie. Director Sebastián Lelio (Gloria) uses colorful, metaphoric framing and quiet acting to craft a beautiful film. His boxed-in framing shows how trapped she is by external perception. As Marina chases Orlando’s memory through Santiago, Lelio crafts scenes and images reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo.
In this visual feast, Lelio keeps us focused on the people behind the story. Vega’s brilliant performance gives the movie its heart. Lelio initially hired her as a consultant, then cast her in the role. Her performance is a marvel, imbuing Marina with kindness, poise and dignity under pressure. But as Marina submits to scrutiny and scorn, we are reminded how easy it is to give into cruelty.
You’ll have to travel to D.C. or Baltimore to see A Fantastic Woman, but this strong contender for the best foreign language Oscar is well worth the trip.
Great Drama • R • 104 mins.
New this Week
King T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) returns to his native Wakanda to rule the reclusive but technologically amazing nation. Yet when Wakanda and the world are threatened, T’Challa must return to his alter ego, the superhero Black Panther.
This highly anticipated film is an important addition to the Marvel universe. It is the first major budget superhero film starring a predominantly black cast. Director Ryan Coogler’s sense of character development and story should bring Wakandan politics and culture to life
Order tickets ahead as Black Panther is poised to break box office records.
Prospects: Bright • PG-13 • 134 mins.
At the dawn of the Bronze Age, cavemen are under siege by more modern humans. Dug (voiced by Eddie Redmayne) is a caveman unwilling to be chased into obscurity. He challenges the Bronze Age cities to a contest of wills.
Dug and his people can’t beat the Bronze Agers at war, but he has another plan: a challenge game of soccer.
With great claymation and hilarious storytelling, Aardman Studios is a reliable source of great family films. This should be fun for young to old, with lots of great jokes for all ages.
Prospects: Bright • PG • 89 mins.
The Biblical tale of the strongest man in the world is retold in this by-the-numbers film.
Samson was blessed with superhuman strength in return for obedience to God. A king threatened by his fighting prowess sends a temptress to learn his weaknesses. He is brought low, but turns to God for vengeance on the Philistines.
An epic tale told with shoddy CGI and worse acting, this Samson is not worth box office premium pricing.
Prospects: Dim • PG-13 • 110 mins.