Most Beautiful Island
Directed by Ana Asensio
Most Beautiful Island is a chilling portrait of an undocumented young woman's struggle for survival as she finds redemption from a tortured past in a dangerous game.
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★★★★ review by davidehrlich on Letterboxd
A short, stressful, and utterly spellbinding debut that transforms the immigrant experience into the stuff of an early Polanski psychodrama, Ana Asensio’s “Most Beautiful Island” is a worthy winner of the SXSW Grand Jury Prize for best narrative feature, and — more importantly — strong evidence of a cinematic juggernaut in the making.
Asensio, a thirtysomething Spanish actress whose work is virtually unseen on these shores, not only wrote, directed, and produced this fraught metropolitan thriller, she also appears in just about every frame. And while the film might begin by suggesting that its heroine was chosen at random (a mesmeric prologue follows seven different women as they weave through the sidewalks of Manhattan, the camera picking them out of a crowd as if to wordlessly reassert that most of the Naked City’s seven million stories remain untold), Asensio’s compulsively watchable lead performance splits the difference between the specific and the representational. She’s an undocumented women of a certain age, and also all of them; never just one or the other. But she’s about to have a night that will force her to forge a unique identity for herself or die trying.
★★★★ review by Rachael on Letterboxd
I have absolute chills down my back. Arachnophobia is real, kids, and it lies all through me watching this.
A superb directorial debut by a powerhouse female who did it all. Amazing. Probably one of the most nerve wracking movies I've seen all year!
★★★★½ review by Jason Coffman on Letterboxd
Part of my coverage of the 2017 Fantasia Film Festival for Daily Grindhouse:
Luciana (writer/director Ana Asensio) is an undocumented immigrant living in New York and taking quick gigs for money. She hands out fliers on the street, babysits, whatever she can find to make ends meet on this side of the law. But as hard as she works it’s barely enough, and when she has to visit a doctor the line between the little money she makes and what she needs to survive is thrown into stark relief. Another immigrant Luciana works with frequently, Olga (Natasha Romanova), tells her about a high-paying gig for women like themselves who are hired to attend exclusive parties. It sounds too good to be true, but Luciana takes the information and then spends an exhausting day on a harrowing babysitting job before she can make her way to the party. Once there, she finds it’s not quite what Olga had described. Most Beautiful Island is a difficult film to talk about in much detail without spoiling some of its secrets, and this is one of the few recent films in recent memory that is genuinely surprising. Asensio is utterly assured in front of the camera and, in her feature writing and directing debut, behind it as well. The fact that the film was produced by Glass Eye Pix (and the presence of Larry Fessenden in the cast) will tip off savvy viewers to what might be in store, but the focus of the film is squarely on Luciana, her life, how far she’s willing to go to stay in the city, and why. The final section of the film is almost unbearably tense, but that underlying tension is present throughout the entire film in its long tracking shots following Luciana through the streets of the city. This is an amazing debut feature, and one of the best films of the year.
★★★½ review by 📼 Roy Parker 📼 on Letterboxd
"America" From West Side Story Sounds *So* Creepy In A Minor Key
★★★★ review by Heath Cowart on Letterboxd
SXSW 2017 - Movie #24
I take it back. THIS is the most disturbing film I've seen from this year's SXSW! Pure nightmare fuel!
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