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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 Jay Seaver

"Quite good, actually."
4 stars

I like movies like "Maria Full of Grace", which function almost like documentaries in how they give me a glance into a world outside my own experience. In some ways, they're better than a lot of documentaries, since the directors can get all the images that they envisioned when starting the project - or which they couldn't get, due to the extra-legal nature of the subject matter.

Of course, Maria is not just an examination of how drug mules get recruited and go about their business. It's about Maria (Catalina Sandino Moreno, in her first role), and she's fairly interesting herself. She's intelligent and strong-willed, and that's both a blessing and a curse. She can see how, at seventeen, her life is already dead-ending, but the choices she makes to escape that dead end are rather self-serving and often dangerous, whether it be quitting her job, rejecting the help of her boyfriend after revealing that she has missed two periods, or, of course, swallowing sixty-two tiny ampuoles of heroin to smuggle past US Customs.

The mechanics of this are intriguing to watch; many movies pay this little attention, prefering to focus on the later revelation that - gasp! - the 17-year-old girl is smuggling drugs in her stomach. The systematic, practiced manner in which it plays out is more disturbing. Ms. Moreno and writer/director Joshua Marston are careful with how they portray Maria; she's a strong enough character to gain the audience's sympathy, but not quite to the point where we're hoping she delivers a bunch of drugs successfully.

The film is well-cast, with many of the actors appearing in their first feature. Moreno is the standout; she's attractive but keeps it dialed down, and doesn't shy away from the more unpleasant aspects of her character. Also good is Orlando Tobon as Don Fernando, the harried leader in New York's Colombian community whom Maria encounters in the film's second half.

Maria Full of Grace could have been a lecture, but deftly avoids that. It's easy to take away a better understanding of the pressures that will lead someone to do something as risky as working as a mule, but also succeeds in making that incidental. The poster says "based on 1,000 true stories", but there are other mules being followed, and it's Maria as an individual that elevates this film above the pack.

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originally posted: 08/01/04 11:51:02
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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 Londoņo 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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