Maria Full of Grace

Maria Full of Grace
Cast: Catalina Sandino Moreno, Yenny Paola Vega, Guilied Lopez, Patricia Rae, Orlando Tobon, John Álex Toro, Bobby Plasencia, Virginia Ariza, Johanna Andrea Mora, Wilson Guerrero, Fernando Veasquez, Jaime Osorio Gomez, Mateo Suarez
Director: Joshua Marston
Genre: Drama
Rated: MA 15+ drug themes, medium level violence, low level coarse language
Running Time: 101 Minutes

Best actress in a leading role nominee: Catalina Sandino Moreno : 2005 Academy Awards â

Based on 1,000 true stories

Less a film about the drug trade than an intimate portrait of a woman ensnared in it. 'Maria Full Of Grace' is this year's surprise breakout hit. Newcomer Catalina Sandino Moreno turns in a captivating and compelling performance as Maria, a likable, spirited and fearless Colombian girl. To bring money to her family and escape a stifling existence in her Colombian town, she risks becoming a mule for a drug ring. It's a harrowing, life changing and life-threatening journey and a frightful experience for small-town Maria.

The film sweeps us along a tense and unpredictable journey with a heroine who is gutsy, rebellious and brilliantly alive. 'Maria Full Of Grace' is not a true story, but a story that happens every day.

My Verdict:
It is so easy to mistake that 'Maria Full Of Grace' is simply another movie if it were not for the fact that this is a story that has happened and will continue to happen. This is not a documentary but comes pretty close as the circumstances that lead a person to become a drug mule are eked out on the screen, and it becomes evident that for some, this is their only hope of ever escaping their present inadequate life. This is a movie about a drug mule, Maria, and the events in her life that made her choose to become one.

Maria Alvarez is a Colombian who lives with her mother, grandmother, sister and her sister's son in a small scarcely comfortable home in the hills north of Bogotá. Maria works at a flower exporting company, where the work is extremely boring, repetitive and excruciatingly monotonous. Much of her small wage goes to supporting her family and she has little to look forward to, dancing at the local plaza on a weekend is about as thrilling as it gets. Maria has a boyfriend, Juan (Wilson Guerrero), but they are just going through the motions, bored with each other and ambivalent about discovering that Maria is pregnant. Their relationship is doomed and when Maria meets Franklin (Jhon Alex Toro), she accepts his advances. He senses her dissatisfaction with her life and offers to help, which turns out to be work as a drug mule - swallowing pellets of heroin, flying to the USA, and literally passing the drugs on, all for what amounts to be a huge fee that could save her sanity and her financial woes. Maria soon becomes involved and begins her life as a mule. She flies to New York with a belly full of drugs where she is pulled aside at the airport as a suspected drug courier. But this is not the end for Maria.

As Maria, Catalina Sandino Moreno gives a totally convincing performance as the torn Maria and thoroughly deserves her Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. Her credibility is flawless, as is the rest of the cast, many of whom are relatively new to acting. Just watching Catalina swallow the pellets of drugs is very unnerving and particularly tense - go practise on a large globe grape and see just how hard this is.

Director and writer Joshua Marston has delivered an intense, satisfying and suspenseful tale that delivers many messages and also provides an insight into the drug mule life, where many die after pellets burst inside them and they are literally poisoned to death. This is scary stuff.

Rating : A

Christina Bruce