By Bryce J. Renninger | Indiewire September 1, 2009 at 4:34AM
"Sin Nombre," whose director Cary Fukunaga won the U.S. directing award at this year's Sundance, comes out on DVD today. The film, which also won a cinematography award at Sundance, follows Sayra, a beautiful young Honduran woman (Paulina Gaytan) who joins her father and uncle as they attempt to get to the United States via train. A startling chance encounter with a Mexican gang member, El Casper (Edgar M. Flores), leads to a series of tense situations on the top of cross-Mexico train.
USA Today's Claudia Puig praises the film, "'Sin Nombre' is a powerful, wrenching thriller that weaves together several absorbing stories set in Central America. It also is the most moving and well-told saga of Latin American immigrants bound for the USA since 1983's 'El Norte.'" Roger Ebert joins the same chorus, calling it "a devastating film about some of those who attempt the journey. It contains risk, violence, a little romance, even fleeting moments of humor, but most of all, it sees what danger and heartbreak are involved. It is riveting from start to finish."
In Variety, Todd McCarthy focuses on the skill of the director and Fukunaga's relationship with the Sundance Institute, "In the most positive sense, this is the quintessential Sundance movie, the sort of film that institute organizers might have dreamed about when they launched Sundance’s Latin American outreach years ago and began inviting a wide range of aspiring filmmakers to its labs. Fukunaga had his prize-winning short, 'Victoria para Chino,' shown at the 2005 Sundance fest and has participated in both the writing and directing labs in addition to being enrolled in the NYU graduate film program. But many others have gone that route without showing anything like the command Fukunaga displays with the camera, his actors and storytelling. If there are 8 million stories in the Naked City, there are millions more involving the recent massive migration of souls from South to North, of which “Sin nombre” is one sad, wrenching and violent example."
In an otherwise supportive review, the A.V. Club's Scott Tobias has a few bones to pick with the script. "Then there’s the matter of the script, which is sadly endemic of the earnest, conventional, issue-oriented mediocrities produced and rewarded by Sundance nearly every year. No cliché goes unturned: There’s a gang member seeking redemption, an innocent corrupted by a culture of violence, a girl reuniting with her estranged father and coming of age on the road." The Village Voice's Scott Foundas also has his issues with the film: "Lushly photographed and meticulously sound-designed, Sin Nombre is visceral without being vital, researched without ever seeming lived-in. The best that can be said is that it's a more honest film on the subject of immigration than the recent Crossing Over-but then again, so is Beverly Hills Chihuahua." That being said, "Sin Nombre" is still one of the many films from this year's Sundance making waves in this year's independent film world.