Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Maria Full of Grace

2004, US/Colombia, directed by Joshua Marston

A stripped-down story of a Colombian woman's experience as a drug mule, Maria Full of Grace is a grimly believable account of the realities of the drug industry at the ground level (we never see beyond those immediately involved with preparing the drug-couriering women). Whether in Colombia or in the US, the film rarely leaves the side of Maria (played with great conviction by newcomer Catalina Sandino Moreno), deftly sketching in small-town Colombian life in the opening stages, and giving an equally vivid picture of Queens's Litte Colombia neighborhood later on. First-time director Joshua Marston has a documentary eye for detail, and it's fascinating to be brought into parts of the world (distant and near) that are usually invisible (the intricacies of the mule's tasks are also conveyed unflinchingly). If the film is lacking in any respect, it's perhaps in its unwillingness to more rigorously reflect on Maria's motivations; the drug-running experience comes to seem like a bizarre kind of self-affirmation, as if the consequences can be shrugged off in the headlong pursuit of the American Dream. That somehow seems like a slap in the face of the truly decent people she encounters.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States