What are you willing to do for money? That's the question Luciana (Ana Asensio) must ask herself throughout the thoughtful thriller Most Beautiful Island. As an undocumented immigrant barely getting by with cash-under-the-table jobs in New York City, it turns out Luciana will do nearly anything to make ends meet: babysitting for obnoxiously bratty kids, flyer hustling in Times Square and attending a mysterious party for two grand. But it's that last, lucrative gig that gives Luciana pause. One of her flyer-hustling comrades asks Luciana to step in for the night, but offers few details other than the promise of a massive payout. And as the party draws closer, it's clear that something's not quite right.
In this promising debut, Asensio does triple duty as writer, director and star. At a lean 80 minutes, there's little extraneous material in Most Beautiful Island, and Asensio spins a suspenseful web that delivers a truly shocking -- and strangely satisfying -- revelation. As a rumination on the experiences of undocumented immigrants, Most Beautiful Island presents an extreme example of what people will do to scrape by -- but it does so without belittling its vulnerable characters. Beneath Luciana's desperation lies a silent strength that grounds her in this story with life-or-death consequences.