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Home > Most Beautiful Island (2017): A Review

Most Beautiful Island (2017): A Review

Most Beautiful Island

The American Dream Turns into a Fierce Nightmare

Most Beautiful Island is a slow-burn thriller by Ana Asensio, who is also the director, producer, writer and leading actress. The anxiety that builds throughout this film gives the audience a tense and chilling darker twist, in collaboration with Noah Greenberg whose penetrating eye and effective integration of the thrumming soundscape of New York City and Jeffery Alan Jones’ unsettling score. 

An utterly spellbinding debut that transforms the immigrant experience into the stuff of an early Polanski psychodrama, she is about to have a night that will force her to forge a uniquely American identity for herself or die trying.

Asensio’s compulsively watchable lead performance highlights both specific and representational elements. This film reveals the raw data of who this woman is, almost nothing that the audience couldn’t glean from seeing her on the street to an early phone call that reveals she can’t shake a lingering sense of guilt over what she did.

Risk is a consequence of desperation, danger is the result of risk. A sense of danger permeates the film’s narrative in disturbing ways. Asensio enhances the menace by doubling down on all that realism.

The film subtly identifies seven women within the Manhattan crowds in various locations through handheld Super 16mm and Working in fruitful collaboration with cinematographer Greenberg. Asensio captures the hustle and bustle of Luciana’s daily struggles with guerilla-style naturalism.

Dark Side of The American Dream

In the lead role, Asensio is mesmerizing, so thin that you are concerned she might not survive. Yet she holds on to her strength, refusing to back down. It’s not like she has many choices. After a difficult telephone conversation with her mother, who begs her to return to Spain, she tries to convince Luciana that she has been forgiven for an inexplicable trauma. 

Nevertheless, Luciana presses on, because her rent is due, according to her roommate’s passive-aggressive Post-it note on the fridge – And Luciana’ is barely making ends meet with her two jobs: Costumed mascot for a fried chicken restaurant and babysitter for two bratty kids. She’s always late for her babysitting job, so her two little charges are on her case, demanding ice cream, running away, and threatening to tell on Luciana.

Despite the kindness of strangers and the eternal promise that she will be able to repay them tomorrow, she barely skates by. That, too, is theoretically sympathetic. However, watching Most Beautiful Island may grind you down after a while.

The cynical immigration theme of immigration has been deliberately avoided so as not to raise any prejudices. It is so much of a character study from a perspective, following the character Luciana for only one day. The ambiguity and crucial elements of the backstory have strengthened the emotional attachment to Luciana. This is evident in the indescribable last act. Honestly, the audience might get nightmares or vomit violently in fear.

Most Beautiful Island

The Grueling Nightmare

This film has powerful, simply visceral imagery. The acting is solid all around, and the cast of unknown stars added to the natural setting. Bold long takes of snippets of conversation that slowly manifest into horror. In the back of your mind, you know something is going to happen… you just don’t know what. 

Fear of the unknown is a dominant device and Asensio masterfully manipulates this concept to create a memorable thriller. Asensio is also a skilled visual director, plunging you into unsettling close-up shots of cockroaches and spiders that stick with you months after the film has ended.

In between, she sinks into a bath in her dilapidated apartment and plucks at the tape her landlord used to cover a missing tile in the bathroom wall. Dozens of cockroaches spill out of the hole into the tub, each one big enough to fight Godzilla. So intense, it feels like it was taken from one of co-producer Larry Fessenden’s gory horror films. It’s no cheap departure from a story that otherwise feels like a grounded vérité portrait of America’s invisible underclass.

Indeed, one of the disturbing contrivances that keeps the heroine and the viewer in the dark for as long as possible is a nightmare of what happens next. 

When the assembled women are assigned numbers and told to wait in circles scrawled in chalk on the stone floor of the warehouse’s unfurnished anteroom, one can be sure they have not been invited to afternoon tea-unless they themselves are on the menu. (When asked what became of her former friends, the Russian girl replies with a lingering voice “New York ate them up”.

Luciana – tall, athletic, combative; not an obvious scapegoat – gives a strong portrayal of a young woman whose better nature (her ability to trust strangers and persuade them to confide in her) could be her undoing. Even more remarkable, however, is her steely direction, her willingness to put herself through the wringer onscreen in more than a dozen ways while remaining steadfast and allowing the threat level around her to rise quietly and steadily.

The Creepy & Crawly Night to Remember

Asensio composes a simple, lean fable 80 minutes short – that is content to keep the camera over the heroine’s shoulder, illustrating in a most matter-of-fact way how easily an ordinary day can turn into a nightmare for someone without the usual safety nets of privilege.

The result has something of the clammy, prickly panic of a towering urban legend: coarse-grained yet extremely vivid, with an internal logic that makes it frighteningly easy to believe the supposedly true story is termite art that sinks its teeth right into you.

The last 20 minutes of Most Beautiful Island unfold with a breathless, sweaty tension. The squeamish may not be able to sit through it, especially if they have a phobia of creatures with more than four legs. It’s almost unbearable to watch. You’ll want to look away. Try not to. The moment is wonderfully executed. The visceral reaction target is earned in every way, and you’ll be rewarded for sticking with it.

It’s a stunning piece that is both timely and deeply personal. You won’t be able to put it down. Even after you pry your hands loose from your armrests and leave the theatre the creeping and crawling creatures will stick with you for a while. The film reveals hidden aspects of a city where literally anything can happen for better or worse.

This film is streaming on Roku Channel, Pluto TV, Kanopy, Xumo Play, Vudu and Prime Video.

Most Beautiful Island

Most Beautiful Island (2017) Official Trailer

Source: Dead Talk Live

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Author

Joycelyne Nsoh Mambo Biya

Hello, I'm Joycelyne. As a writer, I pride myself on offering creativity, suspense, clarity, and a strong narrative voice to all writing projects.My work grabs the reader's interest from the start and holds it to the end.I am an author, writer, translator, and English language teacher