Sin Nombre (2009)

72.

★★★

Directed by: Cary Fukunaga
Written by: Cary Fukunaga
Starring: Paulina Gaitan, Marco Antonio Aguirre and Leonardo Alonso

The long journey North

“Sin Nombre” means “without a name” – “the nameless.” It is a label placed on the many Mexican and Central American people who make the dangerous journey North in the hopes of finding a new life in the U.S. The train ride that will take them there is not an easy one. With border patrol, lack of food, shelter, and rest, the train lines are strewn with people clinging to hope desperately. They really only have each other, and the American dream.

Sin Nombre tells the story of two teenagers who take that journey. Sayra (Gaitan) is a Honduran girl who is traveling North with a father she barely knows. Casper (Flores) is an outcast from the infamous Mara Salvatrucha gang. His inability to commit to the gang’s demands and his attempt to lead a double life separate to the gang’s violent crimes have him running from those who want him dead.

As Cary Fukunaga’s first feature, Sin Nombre, transports its audience into a world that is hard to ignore or treat indifferently. The images of poverty, desperation, and desire that litter each frame find beauty in their own chaos as Fukunaga proves he has an eye for drama in spaces that are rarely portrayed this poetically and poignantly. While there’s no question as to why Fukunaga scored awards for directing and cinematography, Sin Nombre doesn’t progress its plot in a satisfying manner. The performances, the film’s mood and pace are stellar, but when it comes to offering a compelling ending and character arc, Sin Nombre ends with a relatively mild resolution.

Without getting tied down by the larger political and economic contexts of these refugees, Sin Nombre finds depth and rich storytelling material by focusing on young people and their vulnerabilities to friendships (both violent and heartbreaking). Filled with evocative visuals, Fukunaga shows us a world we rarely get to see in real life, and on screen.

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