There is something Shakespearean in the setup of Sin Nombre, a brilliant film from director, Cary Fukunaga. It doesn’t really hit you until you’re away from the vision for a time. Away from the people and the setting and the imagery. Sin Nombre is the tragic story of the search for a home, and how that search leads to death and the desire to escape that home for El Norte. It is a Central American story with a hint of Romeo and Juliette, a revenge story, a story of very young people forced to grow up too fast. Grow up or die. Kill or be killed.
Fukunaga brings us a world we rarely see. Migrants riding train tops, gangs initiating twelve-year-olds by beating them half to death, journeys across countries, utilizing a not so hidden infrastructure for migrants to go north. An acceptance of an underground transportation system that moves through the clear light of day and black of night. Most accept it, and throw fruit for the train riders to eat. Others throw rocks, telling the immigrants to go away. The train riders care for each other, help each other, try to make sure no one falls from the train because of sleep. This all seems somehow natural and surreal.
Fukunaga went to Mexico to do serious research before making the film, rode the trains himself, and lived among the migrants, capturing their ways and their plight. Migrants also appear in the film as extras.
The two main characters are Sayra (Paulina Gaitán), a young Honduran woman hoping to make it all the way to New Jersey with her father and uncle; and Willie/El Casper (Edgar Flores), a young Mexican gang member who makes a fateful decision to protect Sayra from his leader. This causes his gang, with its vast network throughout Mexico, to come gunning for him. The story shows us the extremes people will go to find fleeting moments of security and peace, and the impossible conflicts that come with that journey. It shows us the incredible struggles so many undertake to find a better life for themselves and their families.
Sin Nombre trailor
Like most trailers, this one gives a bit of a false sense of the film. While Sin Nombre does have action sequences, and moves rapidly at times, it lingers more often on the landscape and the faces of the migrants. It’s more thoughtful than that trailer makes it appear. It’s deeper and more tragic. There is beauty here, and brutality. And it made this viewer think how much we Americans take for granted, and how much we assume, falsely, about others. Especially people from foreign lands. No one should be foreign to us. No one.