MARIA FULL OF GRACE (Joshua Marston, 2004)
Writer-director Joshua Marston’s MARIA FULL OF GRACE may be a fictional film about a young woman who becomes a drug mule, but it’s a well researched, documentary-like look at the path someone like the main character would take. Catalina Sandino Moreno stars as Maria. The prospect of earning a large sum of money for a few days’ work entices this Columbian woman into becoming a mule. She must ingest many thumb-sized pellets full of cocaine, board a plane to New York City, and deliver the drugs without being caught by the authorities or having a pellet lethally leak in transit. Naturally, not everything goes according to plan.
MARIA FULL OF GRACE provides an authentic and compelling view of a drug mule’s experience. The difficulties of carrying the pellets, not to mention the danger, are spelled out in a few terrific scenes. Maria must practice by swallowing grapes, but that doesn’t prepare her or the audience for the long, arduous process of downing sixty-two of these pellets. The flight to New York City and need to pass through customs unnoticed are as tense as any conventional chase scene. Moreno is natural and assured in her debut performance. She makes it understandable why an intelligent young woman with a future would choose to get involved with something as unsavory as being a drug courier. In that way it would make a fine companion piece with Santosh Sivan’s THE TERRORIST, a 1999 film that tracks a woman who decides to become a suicide assassination bomber.
(Review first aired on the September 14, 2004 NOW PLAYING)