Maria, Full of Grace

Everybody’s heard of drug mules, the people, usually women, who swallow balloons full of cocaine to smuggle them into the country. They’ve taken on the proportions of an urban myth, except that their existence is real and easily verified. Joshua Marston, the director of Maria, Full of Grace, takes us into this world and shows us how it works and more importantly why someone would risk doing it. If one of those balloons should break while in the intestinal system, it would not be a pleasant way to die. But make no mistake this is not a documentary. The main character fully engages your sympathy. This is a full fledged movie.

Newcomer Catalina Sandino Moreno play Maria, a poor Columbian girl, barely seventeen, who quits her job at a flower plantation, and desperate for a better life for her unborn child, agrees to cooperate with the ruthless drug cartels and smuggle drugs into New York. The film follows her through the process.

But it’s more than a procedural study of drug running. It’s about a smart, ambitious young woman who makes a bad choice and then keeps making them. Moreno glows in the role. She’s a beautiful actress with an expressive face and a delivery that shines even though she speaks Spanish throughout the entire film.

Yes, this is technically a foreign language film, but it was produced and directed by Americans and it has an American sensibility. The cinematography is slick, the sound clear, and the pace is spritely. There is none of the eliptical dialog you find in many foreign films. There is no opportunity to get lost in the plot.

You’ll learn a lot about a part of life you maybe weren’t aware of but you’ll also be entertained.

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