Pretty big words to describe a filmmaker’s first feature. But NYU-grad Cary Fukunaga‘s directorial debut, which won awards for direction and cinematography at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, is a powerful tour-de-force that vibrates with kinetic energy.
Two stories collide at the end of Act I: Sayra–an innocent Honduran girl–attempts to cross the entirety of Mexico to reach family in the United States, while Willy–a young member of the real-life Mara Salvatrucha gang–flees from headhunters hellbent on making an example of him. Their adventure across Mexico’s dynamic landscape–on foot, car, and the roofs of trains–is frought with danger and intrigue.
You’ve got to see this movie in a theatre to appreciate its sights and sounds. The cinematography is raw, luminous, and heartbreaking. The score is one of the most haunting soundscapes I’ve ever experienced. The editing and direction are razor-sharp. You’ll be breathing shallowly for the entire two hours, which pass like minutes.
But the film is much more than just its artistic bells and whistles. The nuanced performances by Paulina Gaitan and Edgar Flores are revelatory in their subtlety, while the exotic setting serves as a foreboding character in its own right. Latin America has never been so beautiful, so deadly.
The screenplay works wonders up until the third act’s climax, which left me disappointed, given the freshness that came before it, but it might just be my affection for these characters that clouded my critical judgement. Sin Nombre is really that emotional, that subjective.
Do yourself a favor and go see it. It’s in limited release, but if you’re in Chicago you can catch it at the Landmark in Lincoln Park.
Head to NY Entertainment for a great interview with the director.