The film begins in the middle of the story, at the end of one journey and the beginning of another. Marlon (Aldemar Correa) and Reina (Angelica Blandon) are illegal Columbian immigrants, and have just arrived in New York City. They are staying in a beyond-seedy hostel in Queens, and Reina has just spent their last coins on a fruitless phone call. Frustrated, Marlon hits the street, and after a panicky encounter with the police, winds up lost in NYC. So begins his second journey one that is both a search for belonging as well as his beloved Reina, that is intercut with flasbacks to the trip that brought Marlon and Reina to the city in the first place, beginning with their leaving the relative comfort of their lives in Medillin and tracking their increasingly nightmarish trek to the States.
The film opens with a bird’s eye tracking shot of the various cells (I can hardly call them “rooms”) of the hostel. It’s a striking bit of filmmaking, though we have seen this done before (see, for instance, Brian De Palma’s Snake Eyes). This is not a bad encapsulation of what is to come – it is both striking (especially the harrowing trip to the States) and familiar, in that it covers ground familiar from other hard-luck immigrant narratives. Marlon is a likable character, but Reina is such a manipulative sexpot that one feels that Marlon would be better off not finding her again. Generally, the male characters are better written and a little less stereotypical than the female ones. There is a lot of power here, then, but the familiar melodrama and iffy characterizations undermine that power.
This is one fine-looking film. The colours range from naturalistic grit (on the streets of NYC) to a forceful tint that borders on the surreal (in some of the interiors). Throughout this palette range, the transfer does excellent work. The contrasts and blacks are superb, as are the flesh tones. Grain and edge enhancement are non-existent. The aspect ratio is 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen.
Two audio options here: the original 5.1 Spanish and dubbed 5.1 English. Be warned that, should you (wisely) choose the original language, the disc does not trigger the subtitles as a default, and they cannot be invoked on the fly. At any rate, the dialogue is crisp and clear, and the enveloping nature of the soundtrack is superb. The music is driving and impressively forceful in all speakers, but it doesn’t drown out the environmental effects. These, whether they be background conversations or traffic noises, show off the track’s excellent placement and separation.
Behind-the-Scenes Featurette: (50:01) It’s a nice, long, in-depth feature, from what I can tell. The hitch is that it is in Spanish with no subtitles, and thus wasted on those of us on the wrong side of the language barrier.
This is apparently a huge hit in Columbia, and is certainly worth watching. Beautiful to look at and listen to, the energy it brings to its storytelling outweigh the weaknesses of the same.