Directed By: Cary Joji Fukunaga
Starring: Paulina Gaitan, Edgar Flores, Kristyan Ferrer, Diana García, Tenoch Huerta Mejía
Rated: Rated R
Runtime: 96 Min
Studio: Focus Features
The “circle of life” looks pretty bleak for Sayra, a Honduran teen, who must journey with her uncle and estranged father through Mexico to America. Sin Nombre, which means "without a name", is the story of that dangerous crossing and is based on the experiences of Central Americans and the recollections of award winning Writer and Director Cary Joji Fukunaga.
Gangs have long served as surrogate or replacement family in many cultures. Poverty is frequently a common denominator for the adolescents who sometimes have no where and no one but gang life as an option. For Willy (Edgar Flores), a teenager living in Tapachula, Mexico, the brotherhood of the Mara Salvatrucha gang is a nightmare. Willy, known as Casper by the gang, brings a new recruit, his friend, 12-year old Smiley (Kristyan Ferrer). But when the leader of the gang kills the love of Casper’s life, Willy is forced to avenge her life which means giving up his life.
This eat or be eaten mentality is especially brutal to witness. The gang members have rules that are ruthless, at one point in Sin Nombre, a young man and former rival gang member, is abducted by Mara Salvatrucha and threatened that he will be killed, cut up into little pieces and fed to dogs. Who knew they meant that literally?
The cinematography is truly divine yet conflicting with the many scenes of lush landscapes laced with destitute citizens sitting on top of train cars. Yes, this is how the immigrants travel, on top of train cars, and as they travel through the small towns they either receive a warm welcome, complete with showers, food, fruit and clothing, or further hatred in the form of bullets or rocks.
Maybe it is just me, but do you ever wonder about your existence? When you were appointed to make an appearance on the planet earth? What destined your soul to emerge as the race, religion, sex, social and economic status, geographic location in which you now exist? Do you ever reflect about the cruelty of man to his fellow man, and historically how foul humans can be one to the other? Sin Nombre prompted me to ask myself about these ethereal circumstances?
Speaking of position, kudos to the cast of Sin Nombre! Paulina Gaitan was “pitch perfect” as the innocent, caring, determined and sensitive Sayra. Edgar Flores was brilliant as Casper/Willy, turning from tough to tender, and hardened to vulnerable all so convincingly that you felt trapped in the brutal gang world with him. Beautiful Diana Garcia as Casper’s victimized love and Kristyan Ferrer as young Smiley provided pivotal and memorable performances. All of the actors showed a great range within their given characters and should be thrilled about their yield.
The immigrant dilemma is baffling, but after watching Sin Nombre, it is difficult not to cheer for anyone who escapes impoverished conditions, even if they break the law to do so. The story is moving and amazing as you witness all involved try to escape their current indigent circumstances and walk, run, and be chased through hell on earth for a glimpse of “the good life” in the United States.
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