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Most Beautiful Island
★★★☆☆
First run Theater cinema

Most Beautiful Island is the impressive directorial début of Spanish actress Ana Asensio, who also wrote and stars in this psychological thriller reminiscent of early Polanski.  Asensio (who appears in nearly every frame of this micro-budget indie) plays Luciana, an undocumented Spanish immigrant living in New York City eking out subsistence with soul-eroding Craigslist jobs. When her friend Olga (Natasha Romanova), a Russian migrant worker who, like Luciana, has the looks of a model, talks up an easy, well-paid gig one night, Luciana jumps at the offer despite the sketchy description of what the job entails.

Shot on super-16mm by Noah Greenberg, Most Beautiful Island possesses some of the look and feel of a 1970s paranoid thriller like The Conversation or Klute. Indeed the themes surrounding the female immigrant experience would be as relevant forty years ago as they are now. But the subtextual issues underlying Most Beautiful Island feel especially timely today in an America of extreme economic disparity.

A few weak performances and some overwritten dialogue betray the first-timer nature of this picture, but Asensio’s naturalistic approach helps us suspend the disbelief required for the movie’s genre elements to get under our skin and take hold. By the time anything too strange or dreamlike happens, we’ve completely bought into the film’s characters and setting. Thus Most Beautiful Island is a terrific New York movie, capturing the feeling of the city during the oppressive summer months.  It's an intelligent parable about the lives of undocumented women, and a chilling low-budget horror movie that relies on mood and tension rather than gore or special effects. 

Twitter Capsule:
Asensio’s tight, creepy, hypnotic debut is a Polanskiesque psychological thriller told from a female undocumented immigrant perspective.
Directed by Ana Asensio
Produced by Larry Fessenden, Ana Asensio, Noah Greenberg, Chadd Harbold, and Jenn Wexler

Written by Ana Asensio

With: Ana Asensio, Natasha Romanova, David Little, Nicholas Tucci, Larry Fessenden, and Caprice Benedetti

Cinematography: Noah Greenberg
Editing: Carl Ambrose and Francisco Bello
Music: Jeffery Alan Jones

Runtime: 80 min
Aspect Ratio: 1.66 : 1
Color