Since the early Ď80s, Latin American immigrants in search of a better life in the United States have become modern cinemaís incarnation of the American Joad family from GRAPES OF WRATH (1940). Like that John Ford classic, this film has a cross-country journey filled with danger and hardships. Here, the travelers are a young woman (Paulina Gaitan) from Honduras trying to make it to New Jersey with her splintered family and a MS-13 member (Edgar Flores) who becomes her reluctant protector after turning against one of his gang members (Tenoch Huerta Mejia). The ensemble performances are remarkable because I never felt I caught any of the players acting, which made the presence of the Mara Salvatruchas in their scenes all the more scary and unsettling. Much of this movie was photographed by cinematographer Adriano Goldman on 35mm film that enhances the storytelling aspects from rookie director/writer Cary Fukunaga, whose style commands attention from opening to closing shot. Iím not sure that I bought into Gaitanís attraction to Floresí character even though it occurred to me that there wasnít the kind of obligatory romantic interplay between them that could be standard operation procedure in a mainstream American production. However, this movieís impact lies not only with its inevitably tragic climax but also in its lack of politicizing its subject since itís confident enough with its story to let it speak for itself. Excellent films have the ability to take you to worlds that you had only imagined. Some of this world depicted happens to be about 10 miles from where I live and from what I saw in this very commendable effort, Iíd want to stay the hell away from it.
CRITICíS NOTE: Director Fukunaga was inspired to make this film by the real-life deaths in 2003 of 19 illegal aliens found locked and abandoned in an 18-wheeler rig at a truck stop in Victoria. At this yearís Sundance Film Festival, SIN NOMBRE won the top prizes for cinematography and direction.