Most Beautiful Island movie
Most Beautiful Island is a rough and gritty, low budget, take on the immigrant movie genre . We’re told that it is based on a true story, and horrifying though that story turns out to be, it’s unfortunately very believable. Despite the lack of budget, Most Beautiful Island manages to give us food for thought, and one of the most memorable scenes in any movie. Ever.
The movie starts with surveillance style tracking of seven immigrant women as they go about their business, lost in the sea of people in New York City. These seven women are all destined to the same fate in their struggle to survive the life of an undocumented immigrant in a large city in the west.
The theme of the movie is the exploitation of immigrants by the rich, how this is aided by the anonymity of large cities and how immigrants themselves, in an effort to survive, often become complicit in the exploitation of their peers. Not new themes perhaps, but ones that bear repeating in the hope that one day we’ll see some protection for these people.
Undocumented immigrants are vulnerable and subject to exploitation
The main character of the movie, Luciana, finds herself in New York City as an escape from problems at home – seemingly the death of her young daughter. She lives a life of grinding poverty, taking the only sorts of jobs that undocumented immigrants can get – she never has money to pay for anything, she gets by on sympathy. But bad though it is, she doesn’t want to return home.
She is exploited by the sorts of people that want to pay the absolute minimum for cash-in-hand jobs with no commitment – no insurance, no paperwork – we see her nannying annoying spoilt kids, and promoting a fried chicken establishment whilst wearing a skimpy chicken costume. Things get much worse when she takes a seemingly too-good-to-be-true…. and spoiler here – if something seems too-good-to-be-true it’s almost certainly because it is – job, which apparently just consists of looking pretty at a party, with the implication that there may be some sex involved.
Anonymity protects the exploiters
The ‘party’ that Luciana is supposedly working at is only accessible after being recommended by someone involved, vetted by an arranger in Chinatown, and then given an address in a remote part of the city. The door is unmarked, and the ‘party’ turns out to be in a basement, where we would assume ‘no one can hear you scream.’ In a further layer of anonymity, one of the ‘guests’ at the party, a doctor, can only be visited by those with insurance – which rules out the victims of the scheme – he is protected in this by the receptionists of the practice. When Luciana manages to visit him anyway he becomes extremely agitated and concerned about his possible exposure
The exploited often become complicit in exploiting their peers
‘It’s a doggy dog world’, as Gloria from Modern Family would have us believe. Luciana’s co-worker in the chicken suit job offers her a well-paying gig at the last minute because she apparently has been double-booked. It turns out that the friend is actually recruiting girls for the illegal entertainment of some rich New Yorkers. Rather than finding common cause with their peers, the immigrants here are on their own and out for themselves. Even near the climax of the film when the seven women are waiting for their unknown (to the audience and to Luciana) fate, they show little interest in helping each other.
The movie ends will an excellent build of tension and one of the most memorable scenes in any movie. Ever. After her friend falls out of favour with the ‘party’ organisers she is offered the opportunity to replace her as the pimp. Will she take it?
Our rating: an excellent movie that dealt with important issues and kept us engaged throughout. 9/10