When we refer to the term ‘drug mule’ it denotes a person who transports illegal drugs to other countries without trying to get caught by authorities.
It is truly a dangerous business as the illicit substance is placed inside the stomach of the ‘mule’ by swallowing condoms filled with the contraband so that it cannot be traced out in any kind of security check. Most of the people who operate in such kinds of business are from impoverished backgrounds and are in desperate need of money.
‘Maria Full of Grace’ is one of those remarkable movies that deal with the life of 3 ‘drug mules’ transporting large quantities of cocaine from Colombia to the State of New York. It was the first feature film attempt from director Joshua Marston and he really transformed his script to a remarkable motion picture.
In the film, you could see that Marston worked hard and placed focus on the development of the characters and their life stories. The perfect characterization of all these 3 women is one of the major strengths of the film. The main protagonist, Maria is leading a miserable life, undergoing pregnancy and is in desperate need of the money. Blanca comes to an agreement to become ‘drug mule’ after becoming distressed with her monotonous life and also due to a tremendous lust for money. Lucy is the third important character of the film and perhaps the most hapless one. During her trip to New York, she has her own plans to meet her sister (who resides in NY) with her probably the final chance to do so.
The performance of Catalina Sandino Moreno, as Maria Alvarez, a 17 year Columbian girl is certainly notable. Due to adverse circumstances and the need of the money to cope up with the family needs, she applies for an ’employment opening’ and commences an unexpected and undesired journey as a ‘drug mule’ from Colombia to New York along with her good friend and a young lady with enough experience in this risky and illegal trade. She does a very good portrayal of a young girl faced with the responsibility of providing for her family and the hard decision she has to make to earn money, even if it meant compromising values and breaking the law. For her sublime acting, she received the best actress nomination in the 77th Academy Award (Oscar) and won in the same category at the Berlin Film Award.
The character of Maria is another role that enhances the movie’s impact and emphasizes the relevance of its message. An ordinary Columbian girl with lots of responsibilities and problems, it is inevitable for the audience to have empathy with her and her plight. It is a role depicted in an impressive fashion.
The characters and their respective sub-plots within the main plot highlight the astounding social cost that the illegal drug trade extracts from its victims. Without sounding preachy or moralistic about an issue as sensitive as the illegal drug trade, the director uses the simple portrayal of 3 stories of drug mules to make a very strong point on a highly relevant social issue.
‘Maria Full of Grace’ is truly a good Colombian-American film and is worth watching. It is interesting and very compelling. The excellent characterizations and simple manner by which the stories are told make for entertaining viewing yet at the same time makes a strong commentary on the evils of the drug trade and gives viewers a unique perspective and insight into the plight of those exploited by these ruthless syndicates.