Most Beautiful Island Review
Most Beautiful Island is a 2017 drama about an undocumented young woman’s struggle for survival as she finds redemption from a tortured past in a dangerous game.
Welcome to the land of opportunity. That’s the calling card for many immigrants travelling to the United States, searching for any kind of dream in a world not always willing to dole them out. Ana Asensio‘s Most Beautiful Island follows one such woman in this, a distressing, challenging journey of survival in the city that is as moving to watch as it is harrowing.
Luciana (Asensio) is Spanish immigrant living in New York City, barely keeping her past out of arm’s reach. She struggles to get by, working where she can, though she has no insurance and goes day-by-day “tired of the possibilities” that never pan out. Her roommate hardly puts up with her, labeling everything “not yours” in the refrigerator, though Luciana purposefully ignores them. One day, Luciana’s best friend Olga (Natasha Romanova), a fellow struggling immigrant, offers her a chance to fill in for her at a unique job. All she has to do is show up at a cocktail party and look good, wearing a skimpy black dress and heels. Once there though, things are not what they seem, and Luciana is cast into a living hell.
Most Beautiful Island begins by following Luciana likes she’s the subject of a hard-hitting documentary, the camera one step behind her as she meanders around the streets on a kind of day-in-the-life story. We witness the hardships we expect in such a tale, and yet if feels astonishingly authentic as she goes from the doctor’s office with no insurance to standing on a street corner in a provocative chicken suit passing out fliers to walking home two young children from school, she their nanny they have little respect for. She can’t even rest in her apartment, the walls held together by duct tape, holding back swarms of cockroaches. It’s a brutal existence and without being contrived, effectively establishes why she would jump at the chance to earn easy cash.
What happens at the ‘party’ is nothing short of disturbing and the film’s ability to so impressively build tension up to this point is its strongest suit. It’s almost unbearable. What Asensio does with all this is where the movie splits from the narrative foundations we’ve come to expect in movies where women are harmed. It’s bleak, devoid of sensationalism, stripped of a score, terrifying to watch – though not in the same ways say a girl in a slasher movie might be – and gut-wrenching in that in begins with a cringe-inducing “inspired by true events” crawl at the start.
Most Beautiful Island is a troubling experience, as it’s designed to be, pulling no punches in depicting what amounts to be one of the most traumatizing moments in modern cinema. That the movie has more to say when it’s over is where it truly finds its place, recognizing with terrific subtlety in its final frame so much about the plight of women such as Luciana who fall into the pit of monsters who hold reign over them. This is not a blood-soaked revenge film. In fact, far from it. It is instead a paralyzing examination of exploitation and dehumanization, one that feels purposeful as well as haunting. A truly impressive directorial debut, this is unlike anything you’ll likely see this year, and is well worth a look.
Most Beautiful Island Review
Movie description: Most Beautiful Island is a 2017 drama about an undocumented young woman's struggle for survival as she finds redemption from a tortured past in a dangerous game.
Director(s): Ana Asensio
Actor(s): Ana Asensio, Natasha Romanova, David Little