Friday, March 25, 2005

MARIA FULL OF GRACE - a slight but interesting movie about drug mules

MARIA FULL OF GRACE is a simple film with a powerful message. Thankfully, the writer/director chooses to highlight issues through character and empathy rather than polemic. It tells the tale of a young girl in Colombia who does harsh work in a rose packing plant. Her rebellious temperament leads her to quit her work and discard the feckless boyfriend who has gotten her pregnant. She is, like so many teenagers around the world, looking for an escape from her dead-end life. The difference is that in a society as corrupt as Colombia's, her naivety, rebellion and search for something better leads her to becoming a drug mule on a flight to New York.

The brilliance of the movie is that it does not deal in heroines and evil men. Maria is not like the Blessed Virgin - free of sin - but a normal teenager. She makes good and bad decisions but they are that - free choices. She is not a victim in the conventional sense of the word. She is not forced to mule by a mean, Hollywood-movie, drug-dealer but by a more complex nexus of circumstance. Similarly, when she gets to the States, the immigration officials aren't mean - they are just tired professionals doing a job.

It is hard to find flaws with a simple movie that tells its story honestly. The material is presented credibly, without prejudice. The largely unprofessional cast of actors does a good job, notably Catalina Sandino Moreno as Maria.
The only real problem I have with this movie is its title which seems a needless provocation - neither reflecting the material covered nor the characterisation of Maria in the movie.

MARIA FULL OF GRACE played Sundance and London 2004. It is on release in France and the UK and opens in Germany on April 21st 2005.

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