It’s refreshing to watch a film that deals with gangs and illegal immigration that doesn’t have a cute little boy who’s separated (Under the Same Moon makes me want to throw up). But Sin Nombre avoids those cliches and makes for one great film.
The film is written and directed by Cary Fukunaga (I’m not familiar with her other work). The big names attached to the project would be the executive producers, Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna. It made it’s North American premier at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival.
The story follows Sayra (Paulina Gaitan), a Honduran teenager following her estranged father and uncle up north, through Mexico and hopefully to the US border where they would cross illegally to bask in the glory of a dream life. The clan rides dangerously on top of trains illegally through Mexico, braving bad weather, the possibility of falling off and the constant threat of bandits. The family conflicts with a small band of MS-13 members, led by Casper (Edgar Flores), that attempts to rob them.
Yes, that is horrible synopsis. The plot is quite complex.
The film is quite beautiful. Featuring stunning settings across central America. The acting leaves nothing to be desired. The performances are subtle, and muted in the best way possible. There’s no glamorizing of gang life, or even border crossing (don’t expect any sort of happy ending). The plot is well thought out, and the dialogue is concise and compelling. The problem comes when the audience is expected to feel for these characters. Central acts revolve around Casper who kills multiple people during the film that runs just over an hour and a half. I found myself conflicted towards the end when I was supposed to feel sorry for this person who will kill someone for no other reason besides the victim having the wrong tattoos. Perhaps this was the point, or the question that Fukunaga wanted to ask: can you atone for your sins by committing good deeds? If this indeed was the point, I missed it, and was left slightly befuddled by the time the credits started rolling. Besides this single complaint, the film really is quite a force to be reckoned with and is certainly worth your hour and a half and nine bucks.