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Maria Full of Grace (2004)

Catalina Sandino Moreno , Joshua Marston  |  R |  DVD
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (173 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Catalina Sandino Moreno
  • Directors: Joshua Marston
  • Writers: Joshua Marston
  • Format: Multiple Formats, AC-3, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: HBO Studios
  • DVD Release Date: September 15, 2009
  • Run Time: 101 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (173 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0002TT0MI
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #14,978 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Maria Full of Grace" on IMDb

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

(Drama) Maria Alvarez (Catalina Sandino), a bright, spirited 17-year old, lives with three generations of her family in a cramped house in rural Colombia. Desperate to leave her job stripping thorns from flowers in a rose plantation, Maria accepts a lucrative offer to transport packets of heroin-which she must swallow-to the United States. The ruthless world of international drug trafficking proves to be more than Maria bargained for as she becomes ultimately entangled with both drug cartels and immigration officials. The dramatic thriller builds toward a conclusion so powerful and revealing it could only be based on a thousand true stories.

When a movie can blend passionate social concern with good old-fashioned suspense, it must be doing something right. Maria Full of Grace scores high on both counts. Maria is a Colombian teenager who, for a large paycheck, agrees to be a mule for drug-runners: she has to swallow dozens of thumb-sized capsules of heroin and smuggle them into New York. This debilitating process is painstakingly described, and of course not everything goes as planned when Maria and her fellow mules land in America. Director Joshua Marston is working on a low budget, which explains the film's narrow, single-minded focus--but this may be a strength, not a weakness. The trump card is the lead performance of Catalina Sandrino Moreno, who won awards at the Seattle and Newport Film Festivals. Her empathetic face carries us along on Maria's journey, and humanizes a problem that is too easily relegated to a headline. --Robert Horton

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
160 of 164 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Catalina Sandino Moreno's compelling debut performance December 21, 2004
In this week's "Entertainment Weekly" Stephen King picked "Maria Full of Grace" as his favorite film of 2004, which is certainly an interesting thing to know before watching this independent film from writer-director Joshua Marston. The picture on the DVD cover shows Maria Alvarez (Catalina Sandino Moreno) posed as if she were about to receive Holy Communion. Only instead of receiving the host Maria is about to swallow a pellet containing heroin wrapped in the finger of a latex glove. That particular image is not present in the film with as much symbolism as it is on the cover, but it does represent the crucible of Maria's odyssey.

Maria is 17 and works in Colombia picking the thorns off of roses before they are shipped overseas. Although she is clearly a bright girl, Maria discovers that she is pregnant. To make things worse her boyfriend is a loser, her boss at work is a jerk, and her family needs her to provide money. So after Maria quits her job she is introduced to a man in Bogotá who will give her $5,000 for flying to New York City with 62 of those pellets in her stomach as a "mule" for a drug lord. For Maria that amount is a virtual fortune and seems worth the risk that one of those pellets could break in her stomach and kill her. So she practices swallow grapes so that she will be able to do what needs to be done to get her money.

There will be several mules on this particular flight, a practice known as "shotgunning" that Marston learned about and which inspired his original script. The idea is that if you put several mules on the same plane and plan on U.S. Customs catching one of them, which would make it easier for the rest of the drugs to get through.
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89 of 92 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Forgive her Father, for she has sinned.... August 19, 2004
Maria Full of Grace is a moving and powerful motion picture about a girl who goes in over her head when she longs for a better life. We follow Maria (Catalina Sandino Moreno) from her dead end job stripping roses in Colombia to a new opportunity--becoming a "mule," by ingesting drugs in large capsules and smuggling them to New Jersey. What follows is a gritty, fast-paced, and suspense-filled story

Remember the name Catalina Sandino Moreno. The heartfelt and harrowing performance she gives here has won her a heap of awards and I am sure there are many more to come. First-time director Joshua Marston, who also wrote the taut screenplay, shows Maria being taught how to swallow drugs wrapped in packets -- she sips soup to make them go down without gagging. If the drugs in her belly should seep out during Maria's turbulent jet flight to New York, she could be poisoned or arrested or both. Marston builds incredible tension. But it's the human drama etched on Moreno's young, weary face that gives Maria its potent punch.

This Winner of the Audience Award at Sundance is a terrific film; shocking, engrossing, and entertaining. But what makes Maria Full of Grace an extraordinary experience is its ability to be ordinary. We see everyday life here, plausible motives, convincing decisions, and characters who live at ground level. The movie's suspense is heightened by being generated entirely at the speed of life, and showing us what probably would happen, and not some implausible fairy-tale.
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64 of 69 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Indictment of More Than Drug Smugglers July 26, 2008
Painful and ugly, Maria Llena de Gracia is also a powerful experience of vicarious desperation and deprivation. The story of a village girl in Colombia whose family, novio, and job all fail her at the same moment. She rushes heedlessly into big trouble, which in Colombia can only mean the cocaine trade. Coke merchants and smugglers are not nice people; we know that, and to see this film as an indictment of their viciousness is only a fraction of the movie's content. It's also, and more importantly an indictment of the global economy, the Octopus of our era with far stronger tentacles than the railroad of the early 20th Century. The indictment is clear from the first scene of the movie, when ALL the young women of the community report for work through a high wire fence to the warehouse where roses are trimmed and wrapped for export to North America. There is no other work in the village, no subsistence, no options, no future. If it were in Mexico - and there are exactly the same horrible sweat-shops in NAFTAfied Mexico - one would have at least the option of illegal emigration to El Norte, but in Colombia, it's 'muling' drugs or maid service. Frankly, I doubt that many American viewers of this film really saw what it was about from the Colombian perspective. Stopping the drug traffic isn't just a matter of spraying lethal chemicals over the countryside or supplying arms and helicopters to the latifundistas who own the government, and it isn't just a matter of reducing demand from the two poles of American society - the marginalized Black and the overprivileged White - either. It's a matter of facilitating the recovery of a diverse local economy, in which most people can make a living and a few can even find opportunity without crime and violence. Read more ›
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding portrait of a young woman January 6, 2007
"Maria llenas eres de gracia," is one of the outstanding films of the new century, and one of the best I've seen in months. Joshua Marston, who wrote the script and directed, took a commercial idea--that of telling a story about the "mulas" who smuggle drugs into the US by swallowing pellets of cocaine or (in this case) heroin wrapped in latex which they later excrete. Should one of them burst before it is passed out of the body, it is likely the mule will die. It's a risky business in more ways than one, and only somebody desperate or foolish would do it.

So the first thing that Marston must do is establish Maria's character in such a way that we can believe she would do something like this. She is, on the one hand, an ordinary 17-year-old Columbian girl who works stripping the thorns from the stems of roses in a factory. She lives at home with her mother, sister and her sister's baby. She has a boyfriend. She has to work to help support the family. On the other hand she is a headstrong person, a pretty girl with a head on her shoulders.

But Maria is not exactly desperate. She is a bit of a gambler, somewhat foolish, no doubt, but she is also a strong person with great personal integrity. Marston allows us to see in the beginning of the film that she will take chances that others won't. She climbs up onto the roof of a building, a climb her boyfriend is afraid to make. We see her tell her boss (more or less) to take this job and shove it when he won't let her go to the bathroom. And we realize shortly thereafter why she needs to go to the bathroom more often than usual. We watch her tell her boyfriend about her predicament, and she does it in such a way that we can tell that she is searching for how he really feels.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic film with a riveting plot
Wonderful movie that I could watch again and again. This film features talented actors and actresses, and an especially riveting plot line. Read more
Published 27 days ago by Natalie Hoover
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Happy with it!
Published 1 month ago by JM Childers
4.0 out of 5 stars in this case very poor young vulnerable (and bored and underpaid)...
Boy oh boy about hitting you between the eyes with the appalling concept of drug this case very poor young vulnerable (and bored and underpaid) girls- in South... Read more
Published 2 months ago by peter eberhard
5.0 out of 5 stars I am happy with this purchase
I am happy with this purchase. No complaints. Don't remember much about this movie but I'm thinking it did not have a happy ending.
Published 2 months ago by amazonbuyerforever
5.0 out of 5 stars Lots of lessons in this film
tragic film but it depicts the exploration of the poor working class in Colombia as well as the perspective that an unborn baby is not a choice but rather a thing of beauty
Published 2 months ago by Nancy Z
5.0 out of 5 stars Great film - from the drug mule's perspective
Great film! This is from the drug mule's perspective so there are not a lot of cops and drug lords and shootouts. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Joy E. Hancock
5.0 out of 5 stars I'll be keeping this movie forever!
This movie was great! I needed it for an extra credit project and I aced it :-) would definitely recommend it for someone else!
Published 5 months ago by Kanday Campbell
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome drama! Very touching.
I loved the movie and the drama in the movie in Colombia about a girl who came to America. It has touched my heart and has been one of my favorite all time movies. Read more
Published 7 months ago by etcsvcs
5.0 out of 5 stars Great foreign language film.
Awesome flick. Very real. Dragged some in places but once it got rolling, couldn't take my eyes off the screen.
Published 8 months ago by Ray McNab
5.0 out of 5 stars Maria
This was a very different and eye-opener movie. I would recommend this movie to anyone. I am glad to have this one in my collection too.
Published 8 months ago by Audrey Chaney
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Topic From this Discussion
Is this movie in Spanish with subtitles, or is it dubbed in English?
This is in Spanish 5.1 and Spanish 2.0 original language.

Subtitles are in Spanish, English, and French.
Jun 5, 2008 by R. Mercedes Parker |  See all 3 posts
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