Review by Jack Foley
CARY Fukunaga’s Sin Nombre is an impressive movie for many reasons… and one of the must-see foreign language films of the year.
Essentially an immigrant story, it’s a painfully realistic and frequently eye-opening insight into the hardships faced by people attempting to chase the American dream.
But it also serves as a compelling emotional journey that’s well served by some stunning cinematography.
Willy/El Casper (Edgar Flores) is a Mexican gang member desperate to escape the circle of violence that has claimed the life of his girlfriend, while Sayra (Paulina Gaitan) is a Honduran teenager seeking a new start with her estranged father in America.
Fate conspires to throw them together on board a train headed for the border and an unlikely bond develops. But their journey is frought with peril, especially since Casper’s former gang members don’t want to let him disappear quietly.
Fukunaga’s film deservedly earned him the best new director award at the Edinburgh Film Festival and was also honoured by Sundance. It’s easy to see why.
The film doesn’t pull any punches, yet remains a richly absorbing tale that’s part thriller, part romance and part social commentary.
The sequences on top of the train are particularly impressive, affording a terrifying insight into the risks taken by thousands of immigrants all the time, but the harrowing insight into Mexican gang life is equally hard to shake from the memory.
Performance-wise, both Gaitan and Flores excel, emerging as proper flesh-and-blood characters and tapping into the fears, anxieties and uncertainties that come with their journey and surprise relationship.
Adriano Goldman’s expansive cinematography, meanwhile, succeeds in capturing both the vast beauty of the stunning landscape its characters must travel throughout, as well as the danger and violence that lurks in almost every township.
A bittersweet finale, meanwhile, ensures that the film resonates long after the final credits have rolled.
Sin Nombre is a powerful, moving piece of cinema that really deserves to find a wide audience. Fukunaga, meanwhile, is a serious talent to watch.
In Spanish, with subtitles
Running time: 90mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: February 1, 2010
- Buy it on DVD (Amazon)
- Buy it on Blu-ray (Amazon)
- Read our review
- Cary Fukunaga interview
- View photos of Sin Nombre