One of the better films of the year is "Maria Full of Grace," a Colombian drama about a girl who becomes a drug mule.
Catalina Sandino Moreno delivers a career-making performance as the title character, a 17-year old girl who works at a flower-packing plant outside of Bogota. When she gets fed up at work, she quits, but her responsibilities to her family and the realization that she is pregnant make her desperate for a new job. She reluctantly agrees to swallow several capsules of drugs to smuggle into the United States, but nothing is as simple as it seems.
"Maria Full of Grace," directed by Joshua Marston, is a beautifully shot and well-acted film that depicts the other side of the drug war. The film never really gets very gritty, but Marston does a terrific job of getting into the mind of the heroine. Plot-wise, the film is very simple. Maria comes to take the job, she travels to the United States, she makes it through Customs, and then has to deal with the guys on the other end. Things get complicated and she is forced to make some difficult decisions, and we, the audience, are drawn into her thought processes.
The movie does feel a tad slow in a few sections, but overall it is fairly consistent and interesting. The lead character is intriguing, likable and believable and things really become tense once she and the other mules board the airplane. Marston gets into the minds of his characters, which results in the creation in one of the best films of the year.
At the very least, "Maria Full of Grace" helps describe why the war on drugs continues to fail; as with all businesses, most of the people involved need the money. Thankfully, "Maria Full of Grace" is much more than that; it is a smart and quietly moving film.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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