Maria Full of Grace (DVD)
(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