Maria Full of Grace
Time Out saysMarston’s alert, compelling drama joins the likes of ‘Last Resort’ and ‘In This World’ in putting a fully fleshed and motivated human face to the cultural bogeyman of third-world intruders. It delivers a drug-smuggling twist, but shows how morality becomes an abstraction in the face of the basic human urge for opportunity and self-realisation. Indeed, besides any Catholic parallels that the title harks to, this enterprising drug-mule’s story tellingly shadows the paradigm of the American Dream.
Maria (Catalina Sandino Moreno) is a bright young woman of restricted means; stuck in a small Colombian town, stifled by a feckless boyfriend, and chafing against the callous work rules at the local flower plantation, she’s ripe and ready when a handsome stranger picks her up for a dance. Nor does she falter when he introduces her to his boss, who wants her to fly to New York carrying a bellyful of cocaine…
Marston tracks Maria’s story with compassion, precision and thorough lack of flap. Paring away anything quirky or extraneous, the film offers Maria as an archetypal angel of burden, a lode of hopes, fears, struggle and survival, who transcends the stereotypical thanks to the sheer intelligent dignity and force of will that Sandino Moreno projects. Marston follows her progress with a non-judgemental, keenly anthropological eye; her Colombian hometown is drawn concisely and from within; the flight, its preparations and outcome are empathic and gripping; while the final act in New York’s ‘Little Colombia’ widens the film’s canvas and extends its sympathies. Perhaps the film’s simplicity and focus leave more detail to be desired, at least if you’re already in accord with the film’s sympathies. But there’s no denying that Sandino Moreno makes it very watchable.