Sebastián Lelio’s extraordinary wonderful new movie gets to the very core of Chilean society’s inbred homophobia and transphobia that threatens the very existence of Marina (Daniela Vega) the protagonist simply because they resent the very fact that she had been the light of her dead lover’s life.
The movie opens with 57-year-old Orlando (Francisco Reyes) getting ready to celebrate the birthday of Marina his much younger glamorous girlfriend. After dinner, they get back to his apartment which she is in the throes of moving in with him and they make very passionate love. However, in the hours of the morning, Orlando is awake and obviously in a great deal of pain, but as Marina helps him get ready to go to the hospital, he stumbles and falls down a flight of stairs cutting his head open and suffering several bruises.
Despite the efforts of the emergency room Doctors, Orlando dies of a brain aneurysm, and once a shocked Marlena calls Orlando’s brother Gapa (Luis Gnecco) with the news, in a panic she beats a hasty retreat from the hospital, However she is stopped by a Police patrol car and taken back there and questioned by the police and the doctor about Orlando’s bruises as if she was a criminal. Both men insist on addressing her by the male name still on her current ID, and it isn’t until Gapo arrives and insists that they desist, is she allowed to go home.
This, however, is only the start of her harassment. The worst is from a particularly unpleasant female Detective (Amparo Noguera) from the Sexual Offenses Investigation Unit who threatens to make a case out of the matter unless Marina subjects herself to degrading naked examination from a male colleague. Next on the list is Orlando’s very bitter ex-wife Sonia (Aline Kuppenheim) who is not just demanding the return of Orlando’s car and the vacant possession of his apartment, but she is staking claim to being the only ‘weeping widow’ at both the wake and the funeral. Angry at finally realizing how beautiful Marlene is, she nevertheless calls her a ‘chimera’ to her face.
When Marlena dares to turn up at the Wake that she has been banned on, it’s Orlando’s adult son and his thuggish friends who take matters into their own hands in a scene where they just stop short of actually killing her. In fact, it is only Gabo that shows Marlena any compassion when he offers her part of Orlando’s ashes, but he too is doing that as a sop because he also wants her to stay away from the actual Funeral.
The whole world seems to want to treat her as a criminal and imposter even though her relationship with Orlando was a healthy loving one and very genuine on every level. His family that was so quick to judge had been absent from both their lives and were angry as they did not want to admit Orlando had for once found real happiness.
The biggest revelation, however, is Vega’s compelling award-worthy performance that carries this whole picture on her shoulders. She is indeed a truly fantastic woman. There was nothing more exhilarating than seeing her speeding through town in her car singing along to “You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman.”
Leito’s instance of using a transgender actress to play this role was not only a masterful stroke for which he should be so applauded but the fact that he cast one who showed such exceptional talent should be a clarion call for future movies with transgender storylines.
No spoilers here but an acknowledgment of thanks that Leito finished the tale on a high note giving his heroine the fitting uplifting finale that she, and we deserved,