‘Maria Full of Grace’ (2004) 350 Word DVD Review

July 13, 2009 § Leave a comment

Score: 3 out of 5

Maria Alvarez (Catalina Sandino Moreno) has a family to feed, no job and is pregnant; she’s just seventeen, a teenager living in Columbia, and she needs money bad. Maria is approached by a young man and offered work as a “drug mule”. Assured by him that it’s a quick, easy way to earn cash fast, and with no one else to turn to for help, she accepts his offer. Along with her friend, Blanca (Yenny Paola Vega), Maria steps on a plane bound for the US, with sixty-two cocaine pellets lining the depths of her stomach and an unborn child, lying quietly dormant, in the cradle of her womb.

Maria Full of Grace is notable for two things: it’s got a great performance from Catalina Sandino Moreno as the courageous, impetuous Maria; and it highlights what a despicable business drug trafficking is, in the way it preys and exploits the desperate and needy.

Everything about Maria Full of Grace feels like it’s based off a true account. It almost feels like a documentary, and this realistic quality really gives the film a credence it might not otherwise have. It is a credit to writer and director Joshua Marston that he has produced a film in which the characters speak and behave realistically, that the story moves in a natural, consistent direction, without resorting to contrived plot twists to add “drama”. We know what the characters are feeling because it’s transparent, worn on their faces, and we believe them.

At the same time, there isn’t much that is cinematic about Maria Full of Grace. Marston’s script is extremely lean and to-the-point, and it works both for and against him. By concentrating solely on Maria, isolating her, it allows the film to settle, in detail, on what she’s thinking and feeling throughout the ordeal; however, it’s also a film so understated and restrained in its style that it never really comes to life. Despite some skilled performances from those involved, the upshot is something that would probably work more effectively on the small screen rather than the large.

(351 words.)

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