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Lost in Yonkers

01 December, 2017 — By Dan Carrier

Ana Asensio in Most Beautiful Island

MOST BEAUTIFUL ISLAND
Directed by Ana Asensio
Certificate 18
☆☆☆☆

ANA Asensio’s pared-down psycho-thriller plays on a number of our shared fears and does so in a manner that puts the viewer in the shoes of the protagonist.

There is the fear of the unknown, the fear of poverty, the desperation felt by someone living in a new city, in a new country, with no social network to rely on and limited language skills.

There is also an element of one group of people preying on the less fortunate – Asensio tackles in just 80 minutes issues such as people trafficking and exploitation – and does so in a lucid, non-sensational and believable manner.

Luciana (Ana Asensio) has moved from Spain to New York and is working to make ends meet. Her friend, a Russian émigré called Olga (Natasha Romanova), tells her she has a job for her, and she will earn a fortune in one night.

Luciana’s suspicions are raised, but Olga insists she will not be made to do anything tasteless or what she doesn’t want to do. Such is her fiscal situation, the money proves to be way too tempting to turn down.

This is an odd film, a slow-burner, and all the better for it. Its low budget is not an issue – if anything, it allows the viewer to fill in gaps and adds a layer of grimness to what is an exceptionally unpleasant story to start with.

The scenario that plays out feels a little like it could be from the John Knowles classic The Magus – it has the same element of spooky weirdness at its core.

The director has drawn partly on personal experience – she moved to New York from Spain, faced poverty, uncertainty, and had to pursue jobs she did not want to do and that made her feel that she was in unsafe situations.

It makes the storytelling here feel even truer.

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