In MARIA FULL OF GRACE (MARIA, LLENA ERES DE GRACIA), sweet Maria is indeed
full of grace, but that's not all. She is also -- quite literally -- full of
drugs, but she's no user. She's a mule, carrying drugs from her home in
Columbia to the streets of New York. In a sad, lonely and dangerous job, she
has been hired to transport cocaine, lots of cocaine, in her belly. It is an
extremely dangerous assignment for many reasons: She could get caught and
thrown in prison. She and/or her family could be killed by the drug lords if
they think that she has crossed them in any way. And, she could easily die en
route if one of the packages in her stomach breaks.
When we first meet Maria, played in a captivating and compelling performance by
newcomer Catalina Sandino Moreno, she is working a hard job in a flower
factory. Her heartless boss won't give her the frequent bathroom breaks that
she needs. Like her sister, she is soon to become an unmarried, teenage
mother, but Maria isn't telling anyone of her difficulty. Her mother and her
sister expect Maria to be the family's sole breadwinner so they are angry with
her when she quits her job on the assembly line, trimming flowers.
Maria's boyfriend, who won't tell her that he loves her, says he's willing to
marry her, but it is not a serious offer, so, when a chance to make big money
in drugs comes her way, she takes it. Her training consists of learning to
swallow very large grapes whole. Her real assignment, however, proves much
more challenging. She has to swallow sixty to seventy large capsules, about
one-and-a-half inches long and three-quarters of an inch wide. When she loses
a few in flight, she has to wash them off, coat them with toothpaste and gulp
them back down. She is surprised to recognize several of her fellow mules on
board. Multiple young women are sent so that, if one is caught, the others
will get through. The story's harrowing last act involves the purgatory she
finds herself in after she lands in New York.
In a bit of touching irony, the last scene contains a distant billboard slogan
of "It's What's Inside That Counts." And, for drug mules, it's also what can
MARIA FULL OF GRACE runs 1:41. The film is in English and in Spanish with
English subtitles. It is rated R for "drug content and language" and would be
acceptable for teenagers.
Copyright © 2004 Steve Rhodes