Sin Nombre, a gritty new Mexican film about love, loyalty and redemption, comes to our screens after scooping prizes for best direction and cinematography at Sundance. It’s a darkly beautiful film that weaves two stories together. One of illegal immigrants making their slow, grim journey to the United States from Honduras, the other story a portrayal of gang life and the dangers of living by a code of violence. At the film’s midway point the two plotlines merge when the young gangster Willy (Edgar Flores) commits the ultimate act of treason and kills his leader in a moment of passion. On the run, Willy connects with Sayra (Paulina Gaitan), a Honduran teenager trying to make it across Mexico to the Texas border. Their paths crossed, their future uncertain, the two make their way to a new life in America.
Director Cary Joji Fukunaga manages a skillful mix of grit and sentimentality, blending the brutal gang story with an emotional tale of hope. It’s a tricky mix to pull off without stooping to melodrama but apart from a lapse or two the film is uncompromising. It’s chilling to watch a group of eight and ten year olds discuss the best way to kill Willy and it is heartbreaking to see the plight of Sayra and her family as they trudge from border to border to hoping for a better life.
Sin Nombre is a character driven drama with the pacing of a thriller and the heart of an art-house tragedy.