Most Beautiful Island review: Ana Asensio tries her hand at directing in this subtle and tense psycho-thriller.
Most Beautiful Island review by Kat Hughes.
Luciana (Ana Asensio) is an undocumented immigrant trying to make it in New York. Having moved to the iconic city in an attempt to achieve the American dream, like many before her, Luciana is struggling. Desperate to make things work, she makes her living doing cash-in-hand menial jobs such as leafleting whilst dressed as a chicken, and baby-sitting the most bratish children ever. Then, while enjoying a coffee with fellow immigrant Olga (Natasha Romanova), she’s offered a well-paid gig at a cocktail party. Unable to believe her luck, Luciana starts to prepare for the evening. Once arriving at the venue she soon discovers however, that this might not be such an easy gig as she first thought.
Most Beautiful Island is a brilliant slow-burning psychological thriller. Ana Asensio pulls triple duty – writing, directing and starring, and manages to pull of a film that is really rather special. Opening with the information that the film is ‘inspired by true events’, you may later find yourself wondering just what formed the inspiration, yet I imagine it’s a story that could easily be the tale of any immigrant out there. Desperate to make better lives for themselves, they often end up taking dangerous jobs, and though Luciana’s may be quite dramatic, you could easily imagine something similar occurring.
Asensio does a fantastic job of making Most Beautiful Island feel realistic. The film opens with several sweeping crowd shots; the bulk of the opening half also focusing on Luciana as she makes her way around the New York streets. A lot of this footage has a guerrilla style vibe to it and, given the budget, I imagine that most of the street shots were grabbed on the fly. This technique adds a documentary style layer to the story that makes it all the more enthralling. Asensio also places the camera up close to herself a lot meaning that audiences definitely connect with Luciana. Most Beautiful Island is a visually beautiful movie, in addition to the aforementioned city scenes, there are also a lot of effective little shots peppered throughout. There’s a wonderful shot of Luciana on the phone that we see via a mirror on the door, which is a particular highlight.
Whilst I don’t want to give anything away about what unfolds during Luciana’s Hellish evening, I will say as much as arachnophobia sufferers beware! The movie does contain some gruesome eight-legged beasts at various points in the run time, and it really is an ordeal to get through those scenes.
Most Beautiful Island is a slow-burning tale that feels very tangible. It ends a little abruptly, which is a shame given how well tension and atmosphere is built up until that point, but it doesn’t detract from everything else that has come before. Asensio shows a great deal of potential in the directing field and I for one am keen to see what she produces next.
Most Beautiful Island review by Kat Hughes, October 2017.
Most Beautiful Island screened as part of Mayhem Film Festival’s 2017 programme.