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Maria Full of Grace (2004)

Special Interests and Television movie directed by Joshua Marston

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Wrenching, but Redemptive

  • Jan 10, 2006
  • by
"Maria Full of Grace," a debut film for both its director and lead actress is a phenomenal movie, and the religious nuance of the title is totally apt. The poster art is not.

Set in Columbia, and Queens, NY, it's the story of a young woman who knows there must be a better life, but whose options are limited. She becomes a drug mule, ingests half a kilo of heroin in thumb-sized latex wrapped pellets , and flies to NY to make the delivery. To tell more would be to spoil the story; suffice to say the movie does not flinch in presenting Maria's life, choices, training, or the aftermath of her adventure.

Catalina Sandrino Moreno may be the most transparent and natural actress I've ever seen. Her eyes, body, and vocal inflections reveal all, but telegraph nothing, and her presence held my eye over anything else on the screen. I think she's in every scene, and I couldn't spot a false note in anything she did. Her character, Maria, never seems to be in over her head, but certainly up to her eyeballs, and you can see the wheels turn as she makes decisions. I never lost hope for her.

Director Joshua Marston keeps the story tightly focused, and makes all the right choices.

I hope "Maria Full of Grace," stays on the radar for a long time. It deserves to become a classic.

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More Maria Full of Grace (2004) reviews
review by . July 26, 2008
posted in Movie Hype
Painful and ugly, Maria Llena de Gracia is also a powerful experience of vicarious desperation and deprivation. The story of a village girl in Colombia whose family, novio, and job all fail her at the same moment. She rushes heedlessly into big trouble, which in Colombia can only mean the cocaine trade. Coke merchants and smugglers are not nice people; we know that, and to see this film as an indictment of their viciousness is only a fraction of the movie's content. It's also, and more importantly …
review by . March 31, 2008
I've hesitated to rent Maria Full of Grace. Do I really want to immerse myself into the heartbreaking world of drug mules? Finally, I grabbed it and sat down to watch. On several levels Maria may be the most disturbing film I've ever seen. A young girl faced with a future that leaves her feeling hopeless. Her boyfriend, selfish, young, more interested in drinking and his friends than her, offers her freedom from her life of working to help out the family. But would life with him be any more like …
review by . March 05, 2006
When I first heard about MarĂ­a Llena eras de Gracia and its subject, I had many doubts about the treatment of such a delicate subject and how Colombian this movie was, with a writer/director from the USA; but when I heard the interviews and read the reviews I got really interested in the film and had the opportunity to see this film this afternoon.    Maria Full of Grace is one of the better films of 2004: well acted, well written, and very unique in its' story. From the beginning …
review by . December 08, 2004
MARIA FULL OF GRACE is an unpretentious, low budget, superb little film that has managed to captivate the hearts of audiences everywhere. Writer/Director Joshua Marston has opted for extracting a slice of life in Colombia, found characters who symbolize the passions of young people who seek a better life, and shows us how indomitable the human spirit can be.    Maria (portrayed by a gifted and beautiful young Catalina Sandino Moreno) lives among the poor in Colombia, earning …
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Richard Wells ()
Ranked #90
Community Organizer by profession, artist at heart. "I been all 'round this world..."
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When a movie can blend passionate social concern with good old-fashioned suspense, it must be doing something right.Maria Full of Gracescores high on both counts. Maria is a Colombian teenager who, for a large paycheck, agrees to be a mule for drug-runners: she has to swallow dozens of thumb-sized capsules of heroin and smuggle them into New York. This debilitating process is painstakingly described, and of course not everything goes as planned when Maria and her fellow mules land in America. Director Joshua Marston is working on a low budget, which explains the film's narrow, single-minded focus--but this may be a strength, not a weakness. The trump card is the lead performance of Catalina Sandrino Moreno, who won awards at the Seattle and Newport Film Festivals. Her empathetic face carries us along on Maria's journey, and humanizes a problem that is too easily relegated to a headline.--Robert Horton
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Director: Joshua Marston
Genre: Television, Special Interest
Screen Writer: Joshua Marston
DVD Release Date: December 7, 2004
Runtime: 101 minutes
Studio: Hbo Home Video
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