Maria Full of Grace

Director: Joshua Marston

USA. 2004.English subtitles. Colour. Dolby digital stereo. 101min.

Maria is 17, lives in a backwater town outside Bogota, and helps to support her family through her low paid, dead end job. Too bright and restless to be satisfied with this, or with the complacent boyfriend whose baby she is expecting, she meets a flash young man who opportunely mentions the possibility of work which promises high earnings and international travel. When Maria realises he is suggesting she become a ‘mule’, carrying heroin into the United States, her instincts tell her that she has to take the job, dangerous though it is, as this may be her only means of escape to a better life.
First time director Joshua Marston tells Maria’s story with great assurance and intelligence, never resorting to sentimentalising or oversimplifying the complexities of her situation. One of the film’s most refreshing elements is its refusal to offer judgement on Maria, but instead to raise questions about individual morality in world of deeply circumscribed opportunities. Catalina Sandino Moreno, acting on screen for the first time, gives an exceptional performance as the woman whose resourcefulness and courage wins our sympathy. She was jointly awarded Best Actress in this year’s Berlin Film Festival; and the film itself has won the Audience Award at several international festivals, including Sundance and Los Angeles.

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