A Fantastic Woman

A Fantastic Woman lacks the courage to embrace full melodrama, and eventually all of its reflections highlight what a flat surface the film is. Sebastián Leilo’s A Fantastic Woman opens as an extended ellipsis, allowing its characters to gradually coalesce into being. We see Orlando (Francisco Reyes), an older gentleman, enter a café one night as a young woman, Marina (Daniela Vega), croons with the house band. Staring wistfully at Marina, who beckons at him with mild flirtation while swaying to the music, Orlando gives no impression of a deeper connection than mere fondness, at least until Marina gets off and he takes her out for her birthday. As the evening of dining and dancing wears on, we intuit more and more of the couple’s tenderness toward each other, how Marina’s casual flirtiness is complemented by her softly spoken gratitude to Orlando, whose own own benign ogling from earlier is now shaded with immense kindness. Leilo moves through these early interactions at a stately pace, though he occasionally gives in to the swells of affection between the two characters and lurches into shots of florid color and swooning, musical movement. It’s reserved but passionate, hinting at a shared history […]

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