Prayer Focus
Movie Review

Maria Full of Grace

MPAA Rating: R for drug content and language

Reviewed by: Jonathan Rodriguez
CONTRIBUTOR

Very Offensive
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults
Genre:
Crime, Drama
Length:
1 hr. 41 min.
Year of Release:
2004
USA Release:
______
Featuring: Catalina Sandino Moreno, Yenny Paola Vega, Guilied Lopez, Patricia Rae, Orlando Tobon
Director: Joshua Marston
Producer: Paul Mezey, Paul S. Mezey
Distributor: Fine Line Features
Production Company: HBO Films
Copyright, Fine Line Features
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Fine Line Features
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“These pellets contain heroine. Each weighs 10 grams. Each is 4.2 cm long and 1.4 cm wide. And they’re on their way to New York in the stomach of a 17-year-old girl.”

This Spanish-language film is being shown in the U.S. with English sub-titles.

Review

“Maria Full of Grace” is a stunning, gritty slice of life film from first-time director Joshua Marston. It tells the story of Maria, played beautifully real by Catalina Sandino Moreno, a 17 year old girl from Columbia who just wants something different in life, no matter the cost.

She works at a rose plantation, dethorning her quota each and every day. The money she receives goes to support her sister and mom, both of whom are unemployed. Her sister is a single mom, and anytime the child gets sick, Maria is forced to foot the bill. She is in a relationship with a man who is clearly bad to her. She doesn’t love him, and he doesn’t love her. She tells him she is pregnant. He suggests they get married, but she shrugs it off, wanting something else. She meets a man at a dance who seems to have a way out of her dull, monotonous life, and promises good money in a very secretive business. He wants Maria to be a drug mule, carrying drugs in her stomach into the United States.

She accepts, and the rest off the film follows the harrowing process of getting the tablets of heroin into her stomach, carrying them across the border, and having them ready for the dealers in New York City. Maria doesn’t seem to have much of a conscience about it; she just wants something new in life. The entire film is an exercise in depression for the audience. We hate to see the life she has, and hate to see the way she chooses to get out of it. The film displays people who are lost, and will turn to anything for hope.

As Christians, we know that the only hope is Christ, which makes films like this painful. Although this is a fictional film, this stuff happens every day, and the reality of all these people risking their lives for nothing is quite sad.

The film is not good for children and young teens to see. It may be acceptable for very mature older teens as a lesson in how Jesus is the only way out. The film contains some profanity, not a lot, but enough—although they are in Spanish subtitles, which may make a difference to some. The main issue with “Maria Full of Grace” is the mature subject material involved. Drugs are not shown being used, but the story is completely about drug smuggling. So parents should use their discernment in deciding if this film is acceptable for their older teens.

I give “Maria Full of Grace” an “A” for its realistic and engaging handling of this troubling subject.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive—I would not recommend this movie for kids …older teens, maybe. It is a rather graphic depiction of what life is like for a drug “mule.” …those who swallow capsules full of heroin and smuggle them into this country. The mules are depicted as very sympathetic characters who basically have no other choice but to do this (as a Christian, I have to disagree with this) in order to survive. The main characters are all breaking the law, basically, and doing things that are not morally right, and their actions cannot be condoned. However, it was a fascinating story of what these people must go through, and also quite horrifying. The performances are realistic and well done. I saw this at Sundance in January and believe that it deserved the audience award it received.
My Ratings: [Average/4]
—Kris, age 44
Positive—Folks, I don’t think the point of the movie is not to make me think about Maria’s moral status, it’s to make me think about *my* moral status. What is my share of the responsibility for the very difficult situation Maria finds herself in? What can I do to change the world so that people like her have better choices? There’s a long list of possible steps, starting with my choosing not to buy heroin, but not ending there. The movie has a couple of beautiful portrayals of people making excruciatingly difficult moral judgments.
My Ratings: [Excellent/5]
—Daniel Kirk-Davidoff, age 36
Positive—“Don’t go chasing waterfalls. Please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to. I know that you want to have it your way or no way at all, but I think you’re going to fast.”

Those lines from that TLC song definitely hang true in this story about a young pregnant Columbia girl who wants to take the fast, but risky, route to big money. That being a drug mule. Normally I don’t mind sin being depicted in the movie and done by the main character, as long as the consequences of sin, or potential consequences, are shown. And Maria either risks being subject to the punishments or she sees it happen in front of her: such as when one of her friends is arrested for trafficking at the airport, another one of her friends has one of the drug capsules burst in her body and kill her, and when Maria avoids the responsibility of telling her friend’s sister of her death. In that short period of time, Maria had to learn a hard lesson of the reality of the fast track she put herself through. She didn’t get arrested, she didn’t die from a burst capsule, but she did risk getting arrested (it was her pregnancy that spared her the X-ray that would’ve been the smoking gun) and she had to deal with the fact that she used her dead friend’s sister for shelter without her knowledge and the truth came out.

I would not recommend this movie for kids, but I would recommend it for teens with their parents watching. I also would encourage parents to discuss the movie with their children and ask them what they learned from it. This movie is good for teaching a lesson.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/4]
—Jon, age 32
Movie Critics
…spares no gory detail in depicting the procedures and risks involved… a story about risk, determination and survival that’s at once of great eloquence and great import…
—Annlee Ellingson, Boxoffice Magazine
…what keeps your heart in your throat during the movie is Maria herself. In a performance that feels lived in rather than acted…
—Stephen Holden, The New York Times
…a feel-good drug mule movie, establishing a genre all to itself…
—Glenn Whipp, L.A. Daily News
…cast is uniformly good…
—E! Online