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Movie Review: Maria Full of Grace

Alternate Title: Maria the Talking Mule

Story: An intimate portrait of the human scale of the international drug trade is sensitively taken on by young American director and writer Joshua Marstan (Bus to Queens ). Unlike the usual cinematic fare about the drug trade this one involves little violence (although the threat is always there), no explosions and few stereotypical characters.

It is about how dealers lure desperate, poor young people (usually women) to act as human mules. They ingest up to 75 plastic wrapped pellets of heroin to carry into the United States. If and when they arrive safely here they pass the pellets, get paid more money than they could ever possibly make at home and return for more trips. The risks are heavy.

Marstan depicts an intimate portrait of Maria. How she gets wrapped up in this life, how this system works, how she copes under pressure and how she handles herself when she lands in the United States are all part of this beautifully told story.

FYI- I saw this film the same day that I saw Super Size Me (the McReview about a documentarian's 30 day binge on McDonald's fare). I was somewhat nauseated by the time I got home from all of the stuff I had watched being ingested. Burp!

Acting: A knock your socks off performance by young Catalina Sandino Moreno

should put her and this director on the map. She won Best Actress at the Berlin Film Festival for this terrific portrayal. She is riveting in every scene. I cared about her life, her troubles and worried about her future. The rest of the cast is also right on the money. Bravo!

Predilection: I am always interested in films that do well in the more well-known film festivals.

Critters: Streets dogs.

Food: Tacos and empanadas.

Opening Titles: Simple

Theater Audience: Crowded at a preview screening.

Sappy Factor: 0

Quirky Meter: 0

Squirm Scale: The ingestion of the heroin pellets was pretty hard to swallow for this viewer.

Predictability Level: I was not sure where this tale might go.

Tissue Usage: 0

Oscar Worthy: She was terrific.

Nit Picking: No nits to pick but I could go on a rant about the ever present drug problem.

Big Screen or Rental: Support your independent film and catch it on the big screen. A secondary plot line in Maria Full of Grace involves the immigrant experience in the United States. Marston's other film Bus to Queens also involves an immigrant experince and I can highly recommend that film as well.

Length: Under two hours.