Sebastián Lelio (director)
02 March 2018 (released)
28 February 2018
The city of Santiago is the setting for this both depressing but ultimately uplifting Chilean film about a woman’s strength of character to come to terms with profound grief and dealing with extreme intolerance.
Marina Vidal (Daniela Vega) is a young aspiring singer who is in a loving relationship with Orlando (Francisco Reyes) a man much older than her. He has a successful print business while Marina works as a waitress as well as sings.
In a sequence that vividly establishes the love in their relationship, they meet to celebrate Orlando’s birthday but on returning to the flat he’s taken seriously ill, she rushes him to hospital but he passes away. The bruises on Orlando’s body suggest, to some, that there’s been foul play and almost immediately Marina is questioned about the circumstances of his death. To pile things on his family don’t want her to have anything to do with the funeral and are looking to kick her out of Orlando’s flat, which she shared with him. The reason for this mistrust and rejection? Marina is a trans-woman., and all she wants to do is mourn Orlando, and keep their dog.
A hauntingly beautiful film that has moments of transcendent visual poetry crossed with base vicious prejudice and humiliation. Throughout Marina holds on to her conviction of her identity and values with dignity, in a spellbinding performance by Daniela Vega. Vega is at times touching and tender, as she recalls (and sees) Orlando. Others incredibly vulnerable, as in her reaction to Orlando’s ex-wife Sonia (Aline Küppenheim) when she calls her ‘Daniel’ and a chimera during a confrontation about the funeral.
Yet despite Orlando’s family being almost to a T obnoxious, director Sebastián Lelio and co-writer Gonzalo Maza do try to convey their confusion and anger in such a way as to elicit some understanding for their actions, though that is utterly destroyed by a repulsive act later on. The authorities aren’t any better; the initially sympathetic and understanding police officer coldly humiliates Marina during a physical examination. These are but nuggets of consideration from the writers for there is never any doubt that our empathy is with Marina, and her grace under the most extreme pressure.
What Lelio has also done is layer in an element of magic, the surreal and metaphor: Marina incandescently breaking the fourth wall during a glittering dance sequence in a gay club. And her struggling up the street as the wind gradually gets stronger, her steps harder, vaguely reminiscent of Keaton’s storm scene in Steamboat Bill Jr.
Warms words to for director of photography Benjamín Echazarreta as the film looks sublime with some exquisite framing; the opening shots at the Iguazau Falls, and later on with Marina contemplatively staring at her reflection in a wobbling glass, her body distorting as it would in a hall of mirrors. All complemented by Matthew Herbert’s highly evocative soundtrack.