MOST BEAUTIFUL ISLAND is striking study in desperation
Most Beautiful Island is a character study of the desperation and embarrassment undocumented immigrant women will sometimes face entering the United States workforce. In her directorial debut, Ana Asensio plays the film’s protagonist, Luciana. She picks up small day jobs she finds in classified ads to make ends meet. The worst of her jobs might be looking after wealthy brats for a pittance. She’s barely making enough to feed herself, often owing the local corner store. Her apartment bathroom walls are crawling with cockroaches all-too eager to spill out into the bathtub, but quickly finding themselves struggling to survive the big drink. It’s a powerful metaphor for Luciana’s day-to-day grind.
Earlier that day, Luciana’s friend sets her up with a lucrative evening job opportunity. All that’s required is Luciana attend a party in a black dress and look pretty. Too easy. But as she soon discovers, there is something much more sinister brewing at this party. Surrounded by her undocumented peers in a creep waiting room, Luciana begins to wonder why these woman are terrified about what’s awaiting them behind a door, where wealthy elites have gathered. She wants out. But her situation leaves her trapped and she becomes an unwilling participant in a dark, potentially deadly game.
Most Beautiful Island was the winner of this year’s SXSW Jury Award for Narrative Feature. Asensio’s tale of an unforgiving New York City job scene familiar to undocumented immigrants. She paints a mucky version of NYC, replete with the abhorrent behavior of the city’s upper echelon. The second act slowly crescendo’s from curious tension to full-on nerve-wracking terror. Asensio orchestrates flawlessly.