Ambiguous Morals Are Trendy: Maria Full of Grace
Ambiguous Morals Are Trendy: Maria Full of Grace -- by Lauren Saccone
"Maria Full of Grace"
Directed by Joshua Marston
With Catalina Sandino
Maria Full of Grace was not a movie I was particularly interested in seeing. A film about a seventeen year-old girl who traffics drugs? It sounds like a bad episode of a teen drama. And critics in general have a habit of applauding movies that tackle 'serious' issues, while ignoring their artistic merits. It makes them seem multicultural, I guess. However, I am happy to admit that in this case I was completely wrong.
From the opening shots of Maria (Catalina Sandino Moreno) going to work at the flower factory, you know this is no light-hearted film. Set to the melancholy 'Los Caminos de la Vida,' this sets the tone of everything that is to follow. Maria is a smart, stubborn girl who does things her own way. After quitting her job due to an altercation with her boss, her family insists she find more work quickly. In a family made up exclusively of women, save for her sister's infant son, Maria has an obligation to bring in cash. Add to that the trauma of finding out she is pregnant by her loutish boyfriend, it seems as if Maria is being backed into a corner. Despite the time period, her world is pretty old fashioned. But Maria has her own ideas.
Instead of marrying her boyfriend or working another low-wage job, Maria decides to become a drug mule. This work consists of her ingesting large pellets of heroin, then flying to
But swallowing sixty-two pellets of heroin dipped in broth is not the end of her troubles. Maria must then endure quite possibly the most hellish airplane flight in history to the
Things reach a head when Maria and Blanco discover Lucy has died. Maria finally contacts the men they fled from, and even tries to get Lucy's money so her family can bury her with dignity. In the end, she gives them some of her own money. When Blanco finally goes back to
Maria's personal changes remain authentic, despite the director throwing every curve ball possible at his leading character. Her sympathy and kindness towards Lucy's family remains believable because she has her own interests in mind.
Her final decision to stay in
It appears the director wants everyone to go to
Writer/director Joshua Marston has made a very fine second feature, but he still has some work before I'll consider him talented. Although his writing is basically sound, save for my issues with the ending, his directing and cinematography leave much to be desired. At first the grainy, realistic camera work seems authentic. But Marston seems so intent on jumping in front of the camera and showing us how artistic he can be, he often forgets that the story should be the focus. If it were not such a good movie, this could be called 'masturbatory'. Many of the shots come from 'Filmmaking 101,' and those that don't usually don't work (did we really need constant shots of the pellets to remind us they were heroin?) There is no information on Marston's backgrond, but he seems too detached from his characters, making this film 'very good,' rather than brilliant.
All that being said,
But in the end, Maria Full of Grace is about finding grace. More than that, it is about finding the courage and will to survive. Whatever grace comes from that, Maria has surely found.