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Overall Rating

Awesome: 31.43%
Worth A Look65.71%
Average: 1.43%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 1.43%

5 reviews, 40 user ratings

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Maria Full of Grace
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by EricDSnider

"It takes place in Colombia: Of COURSE it's about drugs."
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2004 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL: It occurred to me several times while watching "Maria Full of Grace" that even without looking at the subtitles, and even though I don't speak much Spanish, I could often tell what was going on simply through the actors' body language, vocal inflection and attitude. The acting is so good that it nearly transcends language barriers.

I won't say the film itself is quite that good, but it is impressive, the work of a first-time writer director, Joshua Marston, and a large number of semi-experienced actors who understand realism is most convincing for a harrowing story like this one.

The Maria of the title, played by Catalina Sandino Moreno, is a 17-year-old girl in a tiny Colombian village. She has a job de-thorning roses, a job which she quits after her unsympathetic boss won't let her go to the bathroom when she's sick, and then makes her wash the vomit off the roses she pukes on.

Unfortunately, Maria lives with her grandmother, mother, sister and nephew, all of whom depend on her for income. She has an unresponsive, sex-addled boyfriend who gives her little support, and is even less useful after she announces she is pregnant.

In the midst of these desperate times, Maria and her best friend Blanca (Yenny Paola Vega) meet Lucy (Guilied Lopez), barely older than they but more experienced in life. She has worked as a drug mule, swallowing little canisters of heroin and transporting them that way to New York. Her employer, Franklin (John Alex Toro), needs more mules, and Maria and Blanca need money.

And so Maria, full of grace and heroin, embarks on a journey that will find her in New York City, where more problems await her. Moreno plays Maria beautifully, with resolution and dignity, even as Maria engages in perhaps the least dignified job in all the world. (You have to swallow the stuff, then you have to crap it out, then you have to clean it off and hand it over to someone. And Maria thought her de-thorning job was bad.)

Marston's script and direction are polished. The only trouble with the whole thing is that it is, when you get down to it, yet another movie about yet another young person trapped in yet another set of dire circumstances. It's a "good person in a bad situation" movie, and while the grim realities of life are dealt with dramatically and capably, it is not as inspiring as perhaps it means to be. It may transcend language, but it doesn't quite overcome the pitfall of cliché.

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originally posted: 01/25/04 18:34:29
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Sydney Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Sydney Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Seattle Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Los Angeles Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Los Angeles Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

11/11/09 brian Well made, but Moreno is just too stoic to involve me emotionally. 4 stars
1/17/09 Shaun Wallner Wonderful story. 4 stars
1/09/09 Anonymous. muling is possibly the worst "job" ever? 4 stars
3/08/06 Bert Kaplan important story,well done but needed to go deeper 4 stars
3/03/06 Tanya enjoyed it, very good like city of god 5 stars
2/13/06 Phil M. Aficionado A respectable effort that just somehow didn't pull me in emotionally 3 stars
11/03/05 Jin mesmerizing 4 stars
8/14/05 Landshark Save the mules - Legalize it. 5 stars
6/13/05 Helen Bradley Great acting script doesn't preach 5 stars
5/25/05 The Mockingbird Fully realized but it wont move mountains since it happens everyday which is the point 4 stars
4/16/05 Carol Conway I saw surprised how much I like this 4 stars
4/02/05 irene diaz A very good performance by Catalina Sandino 4 stars
3/30/05 John Bale Moreno excels in this disturbing and excellent expose on drug trade 5 stars
3/28/05 indrid cold Not spectacular, but solid. 4 stars
3/19/05 Rachel unfortunatly this was just like every other foreign spanish film i've seen still its... 4 stars
3/18/05 B. D. Cole disturbing/moving/riviting ... expect a sleepless night afterwards. 5 stars
2/28/05 Scarlett Jo Hanson A Fine GUTSY performance as a girl who can sure DOO drugs! 5 stars
2/11/05 Tiffany Faye Hawthorne She's shitting you, Sean. It's a heroine shit heroin world! 4 stars
2/11/05 H.P. Lovecraft Great movie. Well acting. No special effects can still make a good movie. 4 stars
1/26/05 Sean Don't get it. My girlfriend told me girls don't shit. 4 stars
1/23/05 Kathy terPlugg In AUSTIN POWERS, the coffee was shit. In this the heroin's shit--Least it's real Colombian 5 stars
1/23/05 Hilary Adamson What a sinful world we live in, where eating & shitting heroin becomes way to a better life 4 stars
12/16/04 Andy Quirion Great understated movie to show to your kids 5 stars
10/25/04 Obi Wan Great film!! Moreno's peformance was on point! One for the DVD Collection!!! 5 stars
9/14/04 Elizabeth Heartbreaking, well acted. 4 stars
9/07/04 Sal Bevivino I thought the moving was informative, moving and well don 5 stars
8/26/04 Maureen McDevitt Intense! 5 stars
7/09/04 Joseph P I was completely under its spell. GREAT acting from Sandino Moreno and the whole cast. 5 stars
6/22/04 George Royston Great movie! EricDSnider, please don't be so stupid. Thanks 5 stars
5/28/04 VC. Alzate Amazingly powerful movie. As a colombian in the US, I'm without words. Must see! 5 stars
5/26/04 Harold Mason Boring! Too hung up on macho Latinism. 1 stars
5/09/04 gina colmenares es una pelicula extaordinaria, creo que una de las mas buenas q me he visto 5 stars
3/29/04 Megan I absolutely LOVED it. 5 stars
3/22/04 Dairo Londoño for: EricDSnider-because of course ur country is full of addicts. 5 stars
3/03/04 rubens the best film of 2004 so far 5 stars
2/13/04 Ingo Dreyer "real life" was soften to make the tragedy supportable for spectators of the "first world" 5 stars
2/03/04 Chris Austin Was at the world premier @ Sundance and was moved beyond words! 5 stars
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  DVD: 07-Dec-2004


  24-Mar-2005 (M)

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