DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog: Sin Nombre

Sunday 20 September 2009

Sin Nombre

Sin Nombre" directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga (2009)
Starring Paulina Gaitan, Willy Flores and Tenoch Huerta Mejia


Guest review by Blair Stewart

By all means we've already seen the story of "Sin Nombre" when a young girl falls for the bad kid on the run in dangerous terrain, but I haven't seen this plot in such peculiar circumstances before.

Hondurian teenager Sayra (Paulina Gaitan) joins her father riding-rough a North-bound train through hostile Mexican territory to cross the border into the States. While this is occuring recent events shake gang member "El Caspar" Willy (Willy Flores) out of his bearings and he hops on the tracks while his hoodlum buddies hunt for him.

A gentle one-sided love blooms between Sayra and Willy as rocks, bullets and border police whiz by about them. As the train rolls up through the scorched earth child footsoldier Smiley is dispatched by the gang to kill his old friend Willy and become a 12-year old 'made man'.

A multiple-award winner at the 2009 Sundance festival, "Sin Nombre" storyline has a shop-worn quality to it, but is also blessed with a striking similarity to the 2002 heavyweight "City of God". Both give the appearance of access to third-world no-fly zones, with "City" the Rio favellas and with "Sin" the crowded shantytown trains of Mexico. Both also allow a view into their respective underworlds, the focus here being on the Central American syndicate Mara Salvatrucha with the gang's prison ink and strict codes of conduct. Despite a number of unexpected dolly and crane movements for me "Sin Nombre" doesn't have the same visual fireworks as its Brazilian counterpart, but to its own quiet benefit.

The film takes time to admire the performances of its two fledgling leads along with a good baddie turn by Tenoch Meijia, and occasionally marvel at the good/bad of the industrialized countryside.

Talented rookie writer-director Cary Joji Fukunaga now faces a great challenge that has overwhelmed a number of young Sundance winners in the past: his second feature. He could be North America's answer to Walter Salles, or he could keep plumming the same well as Inarritu has done since "Amores Perros". Based upon "Sin Nombre", I'm looking forward to the former.

"Sin Nombre" is available on DVD in Canada from Alliance Films.

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