Sunday, December 27, 2009

Film review: Sin Nombre

Director: Cary Fukunaga
Country: USA/Mexico

Every day we see news reports of malnourished, scared immigrants aboard ramshackle floatation devices, desperately chasing dreams of a new life. That we call them ‘boat people’ might assuage our own conscience but doesn’t change the reality that such people cling to what might sometimes be more suitably defined as driftwood. In the political arena they are a thorn in the side of governmental policy-makers and in the media they are merely fodder to be chewed in the daily cycle of 24-hour news. In Sin Nombre, Spanish for ‘without a name’, we are reminded that they are parents and children, each with their own story, compelling and heartbreaking in equal measure.

Director Cary Fukunaga’s remarkable debut feature tells the story of two not so nameless teenagers who risk their lives in the pursuit of the American Dream, one that doesn’t necessarily entail white picket fences and an SUV. Their dream is simply to escape the violence or poverty that surround and imprison them. Sayra is a young Honduran woman who, along with her father and uncle, embarks on the long trek across Central America by foot, boat and train to the North. Willy (Edgar Flores) is a teenager attempting to escape real-life gang Mara Salvatrucha after its leader murders his girlfriend from a rival neighbourhood. It is on top a northbound train, packed by similarly anonymous immigrants, that their paths cross and friendship is kindled.

Fukunaga expertly weaves politics, love, drama and violence into his own script and is rewarded with some breathless performances from his young cast. Evoking memories of City Of God’s baby gangsters and the grit of Amores Perros’ first chapter, Sin Nombre proves as visually assured and as rich in composition as it is in story. With the devil in the details, Fukunaga leaves little room for doubt of his familiarity with the subject matter so filled is the journey with nuances of the trails and perils lying along the road. As Sin Nombre grounds to its inevitable end never for a moment does it become anything less than engrossing, giving names to the nameless, leaving a mark on your soul long after the credits have rolled.