Most Beautiful Island

Most Beautiful Island

MojibMojib   October 07, 2017  
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Most Beautiful Island

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2017
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The hypnotic opening sequence of Most Beautiful Island — shot with a penetrating eye by Noah Greenberg in handheld Super 16mm and effectively interweaving the thrumming sounds cape of New York City with the quiet strains of Jeffery Alan Jones' unsettling score — subtly identifies seven different women among the Manhattan crowds in various locations. All of them are young and attractive, though seemingly unrelated. How much you buy into the dehumanizing spider web that later draws these women together will depend on your willingness to go with writer-director Ana Asensio's lurch from lucid naturalism into queasy quasi-horror.

A seasoned Spanish TV actress stepping behind the camera for the first time to tell a story inspired by her own life, Asensio plays Luciana, whose troubled past is alluded to only briefly in a phone call from New York to her mother, who urges her to return to Spain. A family tragedy that appears to involve a daughter weighs heavily on her.

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 American identity for herself or die trying.

"Most Beautiful Island" is a psychological thriller examining the plight of undocumented female immigrants hoping to make a life in New York. Shot on Super 16 with an intimate, voyeuristic sensibility, "Most Beautiful Island" chronicles one harrowing day in the life of Luciana, a young immigrant woman struggling to make ends meet while striving to escape her past. As Luciana's day unfolds, she is whisked, physically and emotionally, through a series of troublesome, unforeseeable extremes. Before her day is done, she inadvertently finds herself a central participant in a cruel game. Lives are placed at risk, while psyches are twisted and broken for the perverse entertainment of a privileged few.
She's directed first to Chinatown, where a barking middleman tells her to ditch her bag and gives her a padlocked clutch purse before sending her to an industrial warehouse basement on the West Side Highway. There she finds herself caught in a nefarious playground where wealthy guests — both male and female — choose their human pawns to be led behind a closed door into the "game room." Revealing any more would kill the suspense.

These climactic scenes are certainly tense and chilling, peeling back the city's shiny surface to uncover its cold, hard heart. But they're also a tad arch and inadvertently campy, with actress Caprice Benedetti (in a performance that could double as a Ryan Murphy audition) strutting around as an icy mistress of ceremonies, spouting ominous lines like, "If anything unfortunate happens, well, we make our own luck."
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Most Beautiful Island Trailer (2017)
Most Beautiful Island Trailer (2017)

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