A performance that can break your heart is given by Daniela Vega, a transgender actress who plays a transgender singer and waitress, Marina, in a principled example of casting in this film from Chile written and directed by Sebastián Lelio. The plot is an intricate one that displays Marina in a strong light in view of all that happens to her in this revealing story.
Marina is in a relationship with Orlando (Francisco Reyes), an older divorced man, and in the early scenes, it is clear that they are warm and loving to one another. There is no reason to question that they have gotten over the complications of Marina being trans. But suddenly all is disrupted when Orlando has a stroke and the panicked Marina rushes him to the hospital, where he dies.
For Marina, she not only has to deal with his loss but with all that occurs afterward. As a trans woman, she is looked upon with disdain at the hospital. As Orlando was battered from the fall he took down a staircase, there is an investigation. A woman police officer, although not unsympathetic, humiliates her through the examination she must endure to see if she has any signs that would indicate a physical battle may have taken place. The scene with inspection by a doctor with the investigator in the room is shocking.
Marina attempts to keep her composure throughout, while at the same time wanting to protect her rights and dignity. Further complications arise when Orlando’s ex-wife orders her to stay away from the funeral, which Orlando’s son also does, as well as demanding that she swiftly evacuate the apartment she and her lover shared. At one point she is severely beaten in retaliation for showing up at the service.
Marina is faced with the challenge of finding a way to express her grief and participate somehow in the ceremony involving cremation. All the while, Vega gives a highly sensitive, nuanced performance. She is attractive not only in her appearance, but as a person who is dealing with the change that she is in the process of going through and finding a secure place in a world that frowns upon transsexuals. There is a sympathetic relationship depicted with her music teacher, and her singing talent is something that we see helpful in a scene in which she gives a concert after all she has gone through.
Vega’s performance is one of the year’s movie highlights, and the film itself is also an important and satisfying import relating to increased contemporary concern with its subject, as well as Chile’s official foreign language film entry in the Oscars race. A Sony Pictures Classics release. Reviewed November 17, 2017.