MOST BEAUTIFUL ISLAND has the type of stoic, allure, where you’re not sure going in if its going to be a good or bad idea you stepped into this unpredictable world where your sympathy lies in the hands of one character, Luciana, played by Ana Asensio, who also wrote and directed the film. Its quite impressive to do the trifecta thing, but to pull it off is another thing entirely.
The story takes place in New York City, a sort of beautiful island in its own heavenly way, but also takes its sweet time getting to the meat of the situation. Luciana is an immigrant running away from her home in Spain from some unknown trauma to start a new life, but she’s running out of options income wise, as is stated by a threatening reminder addressed in a blatant note from her roommate that rent is due like RIGHT NOW.
So the first half of the film is Luciana running around the city trying to swing two jobs; one being a nanny to these really narcissistic kids, GROSS! And the other dressing up like chicken to advertise some local food place all while looking to make a large sum of cash in a short of span of time. The girl has got some hustle and some skill in quick thinking in certain instances. Luckily, her Russian friend, Olga played by Natasha Romanova has a gig for her. All she needs is a black cocktail dress, heels, and a party face that says, “Look at me I’m having fun!” The gig is to look pretty at an undisclosed party where if she does as she’s told she’ll receive $2000 at the end of the night. The mystery of this party is essentially what shapes the remainder of the story. As Luciana reluctantly agrees, she’s instantly succumb with fear because of not knowing exactly what she signed up for or what she’s going to be doing exactly. This is what gives the story its genuine boost of intrigue in a way it nearly feels like its flirting with some elements of Kubrick’s EYES WIDE SHUT minus the pretty masks of course. Every girl here, has a circle, a number and a place to stand like some obscure assembly line in a basement somewhere in the city.
Now enter all the wealthy people at this party drinking and placing bets on all the desperate women who wanted easy money and who give off this “lost soul” vibe. The discards of society. Are you pissed off yet? Treating and taking advantage of people foreign to a country not their own, is its own special kind of horror and I feel Asensio takes some meticulous attention on specific imagery to express it. For instance, earlier in the film Luciana is taking a bath, and along side the wall is duck tape clearly holding something in tact. Out of curiosity, she pulls it and what pops out of this hole in the wall? A bunch of cockroaches all landing in the bath with her. Chilling. But most notably, Luciana doesn’t seem to bat and eye or even flinch. She just observes. I on the other hand would have died of shock and drowned. But hey, we all deal with bugs differently. But, I think its an interesting scene to shoot, given how living things enter an unfamiliar world with all sorts of rule, etc. Maybe it’s a small metaphor for it.
So back to the party with the wealthy peeps… At this point its kind of a double edge sword, personally, because part of my inner voice is shouting, “What did you think was going to happen!? Run out the door right now!” While the other side of my brain is like “Challenge accepted. Kick in the fight or flight or mode. I’m here to fight!” Its very exhausting feeling both of these emotions while being reeled into the fearful anticipation in the fate of these girls. Asensio does an excellent job in hooking you with what’s to come next. I also should have mentioned, each of these ladies was given a little purse with a lock on the outside which is brilliant given what we later learn is inside of them. I won’t spoil it, but it’s terrifyingly good especially for those fearful of certain things with venom. It fans the flames brighter and raises the stakes even higher of what’s about to happen as each girl is called to the party room, keeping the others left to their own anxious mentalities. Seeing other girls come out alive and others not come out at all. Well, how would you feel?
I was greatly charmed by this effort of fortitude from Asensio, because she stuck to the aesthetic of “less is more” and I applaud that because often times people like to smother their stories with too much dialogue and over the top gimmicks which isn’t always affective. In this case she kept her cards close to her chest with a very stoic poker face. If you’re ever in a scenario where you’re going to a creepy party with creepy people, do yourself a favor and watch this beautifully slow thrill, turn into “Oh hell no” moment.