Grounded in reportorial research and developed through the Sundance screenwriting lab, Sin Nombre ("without a name") tracks a teenage Honduran, Sayra (Paulina Gaitan), as she travels with her father and uncle through Guatemala and into Mexico, riding atop freight cars like the hoboes of the Great Depression.
At the same time, in Chiapas, in southern Mexico, a tattooed teenage gangbanger, Casper (Edgar Flores), has his own reasons for following the rails northward. The first jarring 15 minutes or so of Sin Nombre open a window onto Mexican gang culture, the violent initiation of a 12-year-old, and the casual murder of a girl.
And so Sayra and Casper meet - and it's not meet-cute, believe me. Their paths become inextricably linked.
Sin Nombre, shot in dazzling widescreen across sun-burnished landscapes and through colorfully run-down towns and cities, is forceful, heart-wrenching stuff. Gaitan and Flores deliver unnervingly natural performances - they don't ask for the audience's sympathy, they just present themselves, young, yearning, and in serious danger of not getting any older.
Contact movie critic Steven Rea at 215-854-5629 or email@example.com. Read his blog, "On Movies Online," at http://go.philly.com/onmovies.