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Maria Full Of Grace

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Maria Full Of Grace

Starring: Catalina Sandino Moreno, Patricia Rae
Director: Joshua Marston
Rated: R
RunTime: 101 Minutes
Release Date: July 2004
Genre: Drama

*Also starring: Orlando Tobon, John Alex Toro, Yenny Paola Vega

Review by Steve Rhodes
3½ stars out of 4

In MARIA FULL OF GRACE (MARIA, LLENA ERES DE GRACIA), sweet Maria is indeed full of grace, but that's not all. She is also -- quite literally -- full of drugs, but she's no user. She's a mule, carrying drugs from her home in Columbia to the streets of New York. In a sad, lonely and dangerous job, she has been hired to transport cocaine, lots of cocaine, in her belly. It is an extremely dangerous assignment for many reasons: She could get caught and thrown in prison. She and/or her family could be killed by the drug lords if they think that she has crossed them in any way. And, she could easily die en route if one of the packages in her stomach breaks.

When we first meet Maria, played in a captivating and compelling performance by newcomer Catalina Sandino Moreno, she is working a hard job in a flower factory. Her heartless boss won't give her the frequent bathroom breaks that she needs. Like her sister, she is soon to become an unmarried, teenage mother, but Maria isn't telling anyone of her difficulty. Her mother and her sister expect Maria to be the family's sole breadwinner so they are angry with her when she quits her job on the assembly line, trimming flowers.

Maria's boyfriend, who won't tell her that he loves her, says he's willing to marry her, but it is not a serious offer, so, when a chance to make big money in drugs comes her way, she takes it. Her training consists of learning to swallow very large grapes whole. Her real assignment, however, proves much more challenging. She has to swallow sixty to seventy large capsules, about one-and-a-half inches long and three-quarters of an inch wide. When she loses a few in flight, she has to wash them off, coat them with toothpaste and gulp them back down. She is surprised to recognize several of her fellow mules on board. Multiple young women are sent so that, if one is caught, the others will get through. The story's harrowing last act involves the purgatory she finds herself in after she lands in New York.

In a bit of touching irony, the last scene contains a distant billboard slogan of "It's What's Inside That Counts." And, for drug mules, it's also what can kill them.

MARIA FULL OF GRACE runs 1:41. The film is in English and in Spanish with English subtitles. It is rated R for "drug content and language" and would be acceptable for teenagers.

Copyright 2004 Steve Rhodes

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