Thursday, May 19, 2005
Movie Review: Maria Full of Grace
Maria Full of Grace
Maria Full of Grace is a movie about three girls who travel from Colombia to New Jersey in the USA as mules carrying about 50 pellets of cocaine between them. Drug carriers were known as mules because when applied to an animal the term "mule" refers to a beast of burden - a slow, uncomplaining, dull creature whose sole asset is that it can transport large amounts of cargo without drawing attention to itself. When applied to humans, mules were supposed to do likewise, carry a large amount of drugs all the while looking so unlike someone that would deal with drugs thus remaining undetected by the US customs and security. For this purpose, many a time, young innocent-looking peasant women would be chosen as mules. Many of them would choose to do the work because it meant alleviating their families from dire poverty. Few went for the adventure.
This movie, directed by Joshua Marston (his debut) was brilliant because it took you behind the scenes of what happens as a drug mule prepares to go on his or her journey. Right from the interview of a mule, to the preparation of the drug pellets, to the process of how the mule ingests them, the airline trip, the the encounter with customs, the collection of the pellets on the other side, everything is shown in meticulous detail, opening our eyes to the terrible risks involved in such a murky business.
Catalina Sandino Moreno who plays plays Maria, a 17-year old Colombian girl who becomes a drug mule in order to support her family and unborn baby, gives a brilliant,realistic, moving performance that will stay with the viewer for a long time.
The film's title, taken from the Catholic "Hail Mary" prayer and poster imagery (a young woman receiving communion, with the wafer being replaced by a pellet) might lead a potential viewer to expect 'Maria Full of Grace' to be overflowing with catholic symbolism, but it isn't, although the setting, Colombia, happens to be a highly religious society. The movie is a political (although, not overtly so) take on the Colombian drug culture. Maria, and the two other mules are presented as victims, but not as unwilling participants. Their plight is tragic no doubt, and they have been preyed upon by greedy men, but they know the risks and have entered into this underworld willingly. Like all who make such a pact, they are shocked when payment is exacted so quickly and ruthlessly.
I would put this movie in a "definitely worth watching" category.