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MARIA FULL OF GRACE, 2004
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MARIA FULL OF GRACE,  MOVIE POSTERMARIA FULL OF GRACE, 2004
Movie Reviews

Directed by: Joshua Marston

Cast: Catalina Sandino Moreno, Virgina Ariza, Yenny Paola Vega
Review by Jarred Thomas


SYNOPSIS:

A pregnant Colombian teenager becomes a drug mule to make some desperately needed money for her family.

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REVIEW:

Maria Full of Grace is a gritty and tough exploration of an underworld culture that influences the lives of those unable to escape its presence because they are victims of the environment they grew up in. Maria is only a small fraction of people, specifically women, who use their bodies as a means to smuggle drugs into America in hopes of providing money for their families back home in their native country. Itís a dark, haunting yet real look at a life not many are aware of and are shock learn about.

The script, acting, directing and editing is sharp only to be outdone by the gravity of the story being told which rings true for many people today. Maria is a young Colombian woman looking to help support her family in a city that is plagued with depravity and destitution. There is no hope of achieving something greater or more meaningful because the community does not support such dreams, and Maria knows this all too well.

Her family is poor, her unsupportive boyfriend gets her pregnant, and her chances of leading a better life are nonexistent. The people that strive in her community are those who dabble in drugs, and it seems that everyone in her small town have been involved that way of life in form or another including her older sister. So when an opportunity presents itself, Maria, left with no other choice or means to provide for her family, goes for it.

Joshua Marston does a wonderful job at not creating a film in which you judge Maria, rather you understand the circumstances that lead her to make the decisions she clearly has no other choice to make. However itís more than that because really weíre watching someone whoís desperation to strive for something other than what she knows obligates to seek help from a source that is the reason she in that position to begin with.

Those dealers and kingpins are the reasons why the community is so depraved. Sure, there are jobs in the area and in the beginning we see Maria as a florist picking and prepping roses to be shipped overseas. Itís an honest job, but a job which simply does not provide much and because of the economic pressure mounting on Maria, she has to look elsewhere.

Maria Full of Grace is a human story that avoids using the drug business as it source of entertainment through clichť gun battles and evil cartels. None of that happens here as we are only introduce to the human part of the story focusing on how an individual gets into a situation such as this and how they eventually get out of it. The film evokes sympathy and asks for our understanding. Maria is a victim of her environment but she is hardly a pathetic bystander going with the flow. Sheís smart, clever, and determined to find a solution. After the death of her friend and seeing her body easily disposed of by two indifferent dealers, Maria knows itís time to go and she act accordingly. In a way sheís an opportunist, and itís that trait that keeps her alive and moving throughout the picture. Perhaps it would be more suitable to say sheís a survivalist.

Thereís nothing fictional about this film; in fact, it almost feels as if youíre peaking into the lives of people as these moments are occurring in real time. I think thatís part of the appeal of Maria Full of Grace because while you know itís a movie, the message and the content is so gritty and real that you wonder if youíre watching a documentary. But youíre not, and thatís the triumph of director Joshua Marston and actress Catalina Sandino Moreno.

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