Reviews - Maria Full of Grace
Maria Full of Grace
The evocative posters depicting an attractive girl tilting her head upwards to receive a pellet, akin to a fledgling bird, built up a fervent interest in this allegedly stirring and provocative tale of a drug “mule”. Written and directed by Joshua Marston Maria Full of Grace uses a restrictive narrative to introduce the audience to a feisty seventeen year old Colombian girl, Maria (Catalina Sandino Moreno) who dreams of more than her factory job, ambivalent boyfriend and family can offer her. One way out of her mundane existence is to become a drug trafficker, to swallow sixty to seventy pellets containing heroin; each weighing 10 grams and measuring 4.2 cm long and 1.4 cm wide. With this deposited precariously in her stomach, she approaches US customs.
Their have been a great deal of films that have dealt with drug trafficking, admittedly from the point of view of Americans. Broke Down Palace is a highlight due to its emotional impact and portrayal of friendship which stands as a stark warning for those venturing to Asia. The Bridget Jones sequel also set Bridget up and put her, momentarily, in a Thai jail surrounded by sympathetic cell mates. These characters are traditionally victims of circumstance, in comparison Maria Full of Grace is from the point of view of a Colombian that chooses to smuggle drugs.
Unfortunately there is still the overriding feeling that this is nothing new, OF COURSE it is the poverty stricken who turn to drug smuggling in countries in which one trip can earn the funds to buy a house. OF COURSE many of these people are not evil, and OF COURSE it is the last option for many.
Sadly this film does not fully explore the intricacies of the situation and remains focused on one character, Maria, who is deeply unsympathetic. Maria is not overtly poor; she works, seems some what educated, is attractive and has a family that help look after her. Maria is un-likeable, whining about her lot in life, disrespecting her parents and generally acting like a two dimensional stereotype of a teenager, just dying to scream “IT’s NOT FAIR” reminiscent of Harry Enfield’s all too familiar creation Kevin.
Train spotting showed the disgusting levels Heroin addicts will go to in order to get a fix and Maria Full of Grace attempts to do the same with smuggling. Regrettably the pellet swallowing is well documented. There are regular stories in the media regarding those with drugs in their stomach, placed in orifices, or even sewed into their body. Although the prevailing feeling is who cares? Who cares what repulsive acts smugglers must stoop to in order to get their product on to the streets of America?
This is a film that manages to bore, due to its functional direction and clunky dialogue (or perhaps that is the translation?) There is no attempt to get the audience to emote with Maria, a character that knows what she is doing is wrong, but puts her needs, or more specifically her wants, ahead of all the people whose lives will be destroyed by her decision. The plot is incoherent in parts, with a pregnancy being used as a poor tool to get Maria to leave her boyfriend, and an excuse not to get X Rayed by customs. There are the occasional signs of a deeper level of craftsmanship; perhaps there is some form of irony that Maria works in a factory de-thorning roses, making a luxury item for overseas buyers no doubt. However this again is disjointed, as is any attempt to intelligently comment on either the theme of the corruption of innocence or the journey from adolescence to adulthood.
Ultimately this is un-engaging, un-interesting and, despite its origins, fails miserably to be enlightening or revealing. The tag lines reads “based on a 1000 true stories”, we can only wonder why the film makers chose the dullest, most illogical and least lucid tale they came across.
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Keswick Film Club won the Best New Film Society at the British Federation Of Film Societies awards in 2000.
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