Maria Full of Grace
Writer-director Joshua Marston, in his first feature film, escorts us into the life of a teenage Colombian drug mule with startling, nonjudgmental detail and harrowing clarity. The Maria of the title (played with compelling crediility by Catalina Sandino Moreno) is an impulsive, fiercely independent 17-year-old who leaves her job on a flower plantation to find employment in Bogotá. She accepts dangerous but lucrative work as a “body packer,” ingests dozens of heroin capsules made from the severed fingertips of surgical gloves, and must literally excrete the packets onto the drug market in New Jersey. This lean, tense tale of socioeconomic entrapment, escape, risk, deception, determination, desperation, threats, violence and exploitation paints distinguishable human faces on and fleshes out what we normally know only as common criminal statistics without standard-issue Hollywood embellishment or sensationalism. M.H.