You may not think to look at it, but “Maria Full of Grace” is quite possibly one of the tenset films made in years. Mostly centered on suspense and agonizing tension, “Maria” is a film about the drug trafficking world, the world where desperate people are duped in to becoming mules for Colombian drug lords. Catalina Sandino Moreno gives an excellent performance as the spoiled and head strong Maria who basically lives the mundane life of a teenager in Colombia. Marston’s film about the experience of not only people seeking a better life in what they perceive as a Utopia, but also of drug mules.
Marston’s film unflinchingly explores the rituals of drug trafficking, and Moreno completely commits to such a practice and gives an excellent performance. “Maria” has two basic structures of its story that Marston explores. In one portion, the film scrutinizes life in Colombia, from the minimum wage demanding jobs, to the utter poverty-stricken families that reside there, and the other portion is reliant on Maria’s struggles to get in to America without being discovered as a drug mule. Marston manages to balance both the drama, hopelessness, and tension during “Maria”, and keeps the audience at full attention. We root for Maria even though she’s an utterly selfish character who seems to want what’s best for her and her only.
Moreno’s performance is so low-key, but so gripping. Moreno is able to turn this unlikable woman in to a completely tragic soul who has misconceptions of salvation, and then has to atone for her errors. Whether or not she’ll be able to ever live with these sins, in a world where she seemingly has no future really does come in to question. Some of the most harrowing scenes involve her swallowing of the drugs and her struggles to keep them hidden beyond airport security. Along the way there are many unbelievable plot twists, and her cruel awakening upon her emergence in to America. “Maria Full of Grace” is a bittersweet, and gripping display of a girl without a future, and Moreno’s portrayal of the title character with no hope really makes this unforgettable. Moreno gives a very memorable debut performance in Marston’s intense, edgy, and murky thriller focusing on the world drug trafficking, and our sometimes futile attempts for a better life.