There have been many films about the scourge of human trafficking and many more, unfortunately, need to be made to highlight this appalling practice that is worth billions.
Nona, written and directed by Michael Polish (“Big Sur”, “Northfork”), is the latest to be released, produced by, and briefly starring, Kate Bosworth (“Superman Returns”, “Still Alice“).
Nona tells the story of the beautiful Nona, Sulem Calderon (“Tap Shoes & Violins (Short)”), who lives in Honduras but dreams of travelling to America to meet her mother who sadly can’t afford to pay for her daughter’s travel.
Whilst heading to her work as ‘painter of dead bodies’ one day she meets the handsome Hencho, Jesy McKinney (“Teen Wolf (TV)”, “Bad Friend (Short)”), who says he’s travelling to America, why doesn’t she tag along, free of charge.
Within a matter of days, the pair are off and travelling through South America to the land of dreams. Hencho is every bit the charming companion, keeping Nona’s spirits up, making her laugh, paying for everything, Nona doesn’t question it.
When the pair eventually reach the border of the US, Hencho informs Nona he won’t be coming with her, but will have to blind-fold her as The Coyote, the person tasked with taking her across, doesn’t want to be identified in case something goes wrong.
Promising he’ll see her on the other side, of course he doesn’t, she is bundled into a vehicle. When she arrives in the land of the free, she discovers she is anything but. Rather than a better life, a chance to see her mother, she’s been sold into a life of prostitution in a house full of girls in the same situation, from all over the world.
The first thing to say about Nona, the film that is, is that it looks absolutely stunning. Polish does an amazing job, particularly in the first hour, of showing us the absolute beauty of South America, the vibrancy, the landscapes.
However, you do find yourself asking why anyone would want to leave, even when Nona, on voiceover, is telling you her family have been killed for very little. The beauty Polish injects somewhat overrides this, it’s much more powerful, which is a shame.
In fact, for the first hour of the film, it’s a continuing theme. Yes, the film looks absolutely stunning, but this is the main part of the film, this is Hencho convincing Nona he’s a nice guy, trust him, but vast swathes of the film are spent watching lovely landscapes or spiders webs blowing in the wind.
The brutality of Nona’s new life is also given a somewhat glossy sheen. Sure, we see half of one brutal scene when she is first introduced to a man, but otherwise it appears she’s having an OK time; painting faces, dancing with the other girls, learning their language.
We do need more films to highlight this plague on society, to ensure more people aren’t trafficked, and for that, everyone should be proud of what they’ve created.
But Nona is almost too polished, too beautiful. I’d expect a story on this subject matter to be something more akin to Nil By Mouth; gritty, dark, hard to watch for its truthfulness, but Nona is so well shot that it can detract from the subject matter at times.