In Most Beautiful Island, Luciana – played by writer and director Ana Asensio – is an undocumented woman living in New York City. Times are hard. She has multiple jobs and she’s honestly not very good at any of them. When her friend presents an opportunity to make a lot of money in a small amount of time, she leaps at the chance. But as she soon finds out, and astute audiences are keenly aware, there is always a price. The more questions she has, the fewer answers she receives, culminating in a hold-your-breath, chair-clinching finale.
Ana Asensio brings life experience and a mountain of tension to tell the story of Luciana. Channeling this personal history, Asensio earns your heart early as a struggling nanny who’s doing everything she can to herd horribly spoiled children. She maintains this grasp on our emotions as the anxiety climbs from her potentially missing a party and, of course, to once she arrives.
Natasha Romanova plays the exotic Olga, a woman who hands Luciana her opportunity for a quick score. The high energy duo leave their embarrassing job of restaurant promotion while dressed up like chickens – hardly worthy of women that should be hearing the noise of clicking cameras instead of making the noises of clucking chickens. After ditching her second job onto another, Luciana rushes to this party where she is only supposed to hang around for a couple of hours. Bouncing from one location to the next, Luciana finally arrives at “the party” where she is one of nine beautiful women, all from different nationalities. These women are called one-by-one and led to a secretive room where only loud screams are heard.
The film moves from the wide open, privileged neighborhoods that convey comfort and safety, to the cramped inner city, to an isolated warehouse providing a smothering feeling of constriction like a sinister anaconda squeezing its naïve prey. Noah Greenberg’s use of color and shadows creates an elevated sense of anxiety as the film progresses with the bright afternoon of the outside contrasted with the pitch black shadowy warehouse in the final act.
I am intentionally being cagey with this story, as the less you know about Most Beautiful Island the better. Just know that this SXSW Film Festival Grand Jury Award Winner for Narrative Feature is highly-deserving, and is the epitome of why people go to this festival and others like it. I cannot wait to see what else is to come from Ms. Asensio, as this was a most beautiful directorial debut.
Starring Ana Asensio, Natasha Romanova, David Little
Written by Ana Asensio
Directed by Ana Asensio