"The cycle of grief has its own timetable. Until that cycle is honored and completed we are moving along life's path with an anchor down," Ann Linnea has written in Deep Water Passage. This is certainly the experience of Marina (Daniela Vega), a transgender singer in her late twenties living in Santiago, Chile.
She has been having an intimate relationship with Orlando (Francisco Reyes), an older divorced man with grown children. We are treated to a glimpse of their delight in one another as they flirt during her performance of a song at a club and then head off for a birthday party at a Chinese restaurant where he surprises her by proposing a two-week trip together to the Iguazu Falls. They return to his apartment and have sex. In the middle of the night, he awakens and after stumbling around, falls down the stairway. She rushes him to the hospital.
Marina is at her wit's end while awaiting news of Orlando's condition. When she is finally told that he has died of an aneurism, she is treated with suspicion. The doctor is very rude toward her and shows no respect for a grieving woman's loss of the person she loved. The medical team calls in the police after noting bruises on Orlando's body and a gash in his forehead. Then a patronizing female detective from the Sexual Offenses Investigation Unit (Amparo Noguera) doubts that they had a healthy consensual relationship and questions Marina as if she were a victim of sexual abuse or a murder suspect.
In his last film Gloria, writer and director Sebastian Lelio creatively presented the spiritual journey of a lonely middle-aged woman on a quest for independence and fulfilment. Here, he shows us Marina's spiritual journey she tries to find some meaning while moving along life's path with an anchor down.
Orlando's family, resentful and angry about Orlando and Marina's relationship, are determined to steal her grief, aggravating her loneliness. His ex-wife Sonia (Aline Kuppenheim) looks down on her and gasps, "I don't know what I'm seeing." Orlando's son Bruno (Nicholas Saavedra) orders her out of his father's apartment. Both make it clear that they do not want her to attend the funeral. But Marina believes that saying goodbye to a loved one after he dies is a human right.
Luckily, Marina has a few people she can look to for love and support, including her sister (Trinidad Gonzalez) and her husband. Best of all is her opera voice coach and father figure (Sergio Hernandez).
Throughout this rich drama, we are touched by Marina's resiliency under the pressures, threats, and physical attacks which test her mettle and courage to carry on. In The Clown in the Belfry, minister and writer Frederick Buechner describes the process we see her going through:
"Being a good steward of your pain … involves being alive to your life. It involves taking the risk of being open, of reaching out, of keeping in touch with the pain as well as the joy of what happens because at no time more than at a painful time do we live out of the depths of who we are instead of out of the shallows."
Trans actress Daniele Vega puts in a top-drawer performance in her screen debut. A Fantastic Woman from Chile has been nominated in the Foreign Language category of the Academy Awards.