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For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.

(Photo by Christobal Corral Vega, HBO Films, Fine Line Features}

photo caption:
IT'S A LOT TO SWALLOW: Maria (Catalina Sandino Moreno) is contemplating the wisdom of her decision to act as a drug "mule" in order to earn enough money to extricate herself from the problems she is facing as a pregnant single woman in Bogota.
end caption.


"Maria, Full of Grace"(Maria, Ilena Eres de Gracia): Danger, Drugs and Drama in Colombian Coming-of-Age Cautionary Tale

Review by Kam Williams

Maria (Catalina Sandino Moreno) is an attractive 17 year-old who lives with several generations of relatives in an overcrowded concrete house located on the outskirts of Bogota. Though the ambitious young girl is bristling with all the energy of a soul in the bloom of youth, she doesn't get a chance to pursue her dreams.

She's stuck in a mindless dead-end job picking thorns off roses on a flower plantation with a boss who's only interested in exploiting his employees. Maria's paycheck goes to supporting the extended family which limits her chances of expanding her horizons.

After she becomes pregnant by Juan (Wilson Guerrero), a co-worker, Maria realizes that she is in the same predicament as her sister. Rather than await her fate as an unwed mother, she agrees to smuggle heroin into America for the big payday promised by Franklin (John Alex Toro), a self-assured drug dealer.

This is the point of departure of Maria, Full of Grace, a harrowing tale which graphically illustrates how this illicit international trade operates. The movie represents a sensational directorial debut for Joshua Marston, who captured his subject-matter effectively.

We witness Maria and her fellow female mules swallowing dozens of thumb-sized latex condoms before they board a plane bound for New York City. En route, one woman gets sick when one of the deadly rubbers ruptures inside of her. Maria has her own crisis when she defecates and discovers that the drugs she swallowed are emerging too soon.

The situation gets worse when they arrive, because each mule is on her own in the struggle to clear customs and evade the authorities on the way to their appointed rendezvous. Maria finds herself bouncing around the ugly underbelly of a totally unfamiliar city, and regretting that she got herself mixed-up in this mess.

This is not a film for the weak of stomach because the unblinking eye of the camera lingers on every tawdry moment. However, between its taut, convincing script and Ms. Moreno's Oscar-quality performance, this movie grabs you by the throat from the start and never lets go.

Excellent (4 Stars). Rated R for teen sexuality, drug use, gory violence, expletives, and adult subject matter. In Spanish with subtitles.

end of review.

For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.


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