Most of the Michael Polish film Nona seems like a dream. There are new young people who seem to have a wonderful life opening up for them. But for one of them this dream turns into a nightmare.
A young Honduran woman (Sulem Calderon) lives in a shanty town. She seems happy enough, but she is alone. When a rakish young man (Jesy McKinney) comes to town, she becomes fascinated by his attitude and free spirit. When he invites her to come north with him, she sees it as an opportunity to reconnect with her mother in the U.S. As the two travel through Guatemala and Mexico by car, bus, boat, and on foot, it seems like an idyllic and romantic time. They share their stories and it seems they could be falling in love.
But in the last quarter of the film, the story makes a sudden shift. They don?t cross the border together. Instead he hands her over to a coyote to smuggle her across while he goes through immigration. But the other side of the border is not what she expected or hoped for. She must now pay off her debt in a brothel.
The film is a strange combination of beauty and darkness. The journey brings many wonderful sights. But throughout the story there is a constant presence of death. The young woman says she ?paints the dead??she worked at a mortuary applying makeup to the bodies. She says that death is a big business in Honduras. He father and brother met violent deaths. She is used to seeing dead bodies in the street. We can understand her desire to find a better life.
There is also a religious undertone to the movie. Even before we meet the young man, we see him being prayed over by a street preacher. On their journey north, they stop in a church to pray. He tells her that Jesus saved his life. Is his faith just for show? Will her faith protect her from the dangers of this trip?
The last few minutes of the film has Kate Bosworth (who produced the film) as a detective who gives voice to the issues faced by victims of human trafficking. A title card at the end gives statistics about how many people are affected by trafficking, but the story of a single woman who becomes the face of human trafficking victims is more powerful that the numbers we see.