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Movie Review – Maria Full of Grace
Filmed mostly in Colombia, Maria Full of Grace is a dramatic movie about the illegal drug industry occurring between Colombia and the United States. The movie was released in 2004 and is approximately 90 minutes long. Maria Full of Grace effectively portrays the differences in lifestyle between the United States and South American countries with much smaller GDPs (Gross Domestic Products). Viewers will see the extremes that people will go through to get drugs through customs and make extremely large amounts of money.
In the beginning of the movie, we get a feel of what Maria’s daily life is like in Colombia. She works in a flower shop, removing thorns from roses. Her boss walks the isles of his workers all day long asking for more production and asking if his workers are meeting their quotas. Maria returns home every day to a small home with approximately three rooms which she shares with her mother, two sisters, and baby niece. She also has a boyfriend named Juan who does not have much of a promising future and has a happy-go-lucky attitude. Juan and Maria walk the town often and stop to kiss or climb onto rooftops to gain some privacy.
The director portrays an active nightlife in the Colombian city where Maria lives. She and Juan often go out drinking and dancing at various parties or clubs with Maria’s little sister Blanca. Juan usually drinks too much and does not pay much attention to Maria, leaving her to find guys for her female friends and for Maria to get hit on by other young men at the parties. She seems like a young woman who has morals and is wiser than most of her friends leading the viewer to think that she and Juan will not make it together. This is especially evident when a young, hip guy named Franklin approaches her and attracts her attention unlike most other guys. Franklin and Maria end up parting ways but will meet each other again.
Maria and Juan are obviously very attracted to one another, and while Maria is talking to Juan in private one afternoon, she tells him she is pregnant with his child. Juan reacts to this news in a very immature way, first becoming angry, then by asking Maria to marry him. He feels like it is his responsibility and the right thing to do at the moment. She does not say yes to him because she feels he is not being genuine and does not really want to get married. She leaves and returns to her job, where a bad situation becomes much worse. Her boss is constantly looking over her shoulder again causing her to become irritated and to quit her job. She returns home to argue with her mother and sisters who accuse her of being selfish since the family is in serious need of money.
A frustrated Maria leaves home to think about a new job and passes Franklin on his motorcycle. She gets on the motorcycle with him and they ride to the city together to have a drink and talk to one of his friends. It is clear at this point that Franklin is trying to sweep Maria off her feet and that she is really enjoying his relaxing company. The two end up going to a dive bar where a Mafia-looking man is sitting in the corner. Franklin approaches him and gets the man to agree to talk to Maria for a moment. The dirty looking man is heavily involved in cocaine trade and offers Maria a job. She lies about her age, saying she is eighteen when she is really only seventeen, and says she will gladly work for him. The man gives her several hundred dollars to show that his word is good and tells Maria to meet him at a local doctor’s office in a few days. Maria is more relaxed at this point and returns home to donate some of the money to her needy family.
Maria Full of Grace really becomes interesting when Maria arrives to the doctor’s office a few days later. She is led upstairs by secret passageway where the doctor and the drug lord are waiting for her. The doctor asks her to swallow a lubricating fluid and a pill that will slow down her digestion process. The drug lord, whose name is Javier, asks her to swallow a total of sixty two pellets coated in synthetic rubber and full of cocaine. She struggles while swallowing all of the pellets, but manages to get them all into her stomach and onto a plane to New York. Once in New York, she will fully digest the pellets and wash them off before handing them off to drug distributors.
On the plane to New York, she sees two other drug mules she knows, a woman named Lucy and her little sister, Blanca. Blanca is only sixteen years old, but knows that if she can make it through this trip that she has the chance to make over five thousand dollars. In a country like Colombia where people do not have the opportunity to make much money, five thousand dollars can change one’s life. While Maria and Blanca have major stomach pains during the flight, Lucy becomes seriously ill. The plane lands in New York where the girls know they need to digest the pellets quickly, especially for Lucy who is in danger of dying from one of the pellets breaking open in her stomach.
However, Maria looks suspicious when walking through customs at the airport in New York. The police and customs agents pull her into an examination room to begin questioning her in Spanish. She denies that she has any form of drugs in her body, but cannot produce a believable story to the agents. Maria is forced to give a urine sample to rule out drugs in her system where the agents discover she is pregnant. The agents really want to do a CT scan on her stomach to look for capsules or pellets holding drugs, but quickly rule this out due to her pregnancy. Luckily, Maria is released from the customs office and meets up with Lucy and Blanca.
The three young females meet again in a hotel room where the drug distributors are staying. The men watch the three young women and wait patiently for them to digest the drug pellets and clean them off. Maria and Blanca produce the pellets quickly, but Lucy is still in serious danger. It turns out that a pellet has leaked open into her stomach where she received a lethal dose of cocaine. While she is in the bathroom, she passes out and dies under the shower’s water stream. The young men send Lucy and Blanca out of the room briefly, and when they return to the room they are terrified. Lucy is gone, but there is blood all over the tub and a sense of death in the room.
At this point, Maria and Blanca grab their cocaine pellets and run out of the hotel. They find Lucy’s sister in a random apartment building and manage to stay there for several weeks. Lucy’s sister puts the two young women in touch with a local man who has a way of finding jobs for young Latina women without much prospect for finding a job. He finds out that the two women are drug mules and are holding mass amounts of cocaine in their purses, and also informs them that Lucy was in fact gutted and killed in the hotel so the young men could recover her drugs.
Maria and Blanca are terrified and know that if they do not do the right thing, that they too will be killed. Therefore, they contact the drug distributors and hand over the cocaine pellets. After accounting for all of the pellets, the young men do the fair thing and pay both of the girls the full amount of money owed to each. Maria feels guilty for taking advantage of Lucy’s sister and grateful for being allowed to stay in the woman’s apartment, so she gives a majority of her money to Lucy’s sister. This money is intended to repay her debt to the woman, and more importantly, to pay for Lucy’s funeral.
Now that Maria and Blanca have money to return home to Colombia with and have safely resolved the situation with their cocaine pellets, they must return to the airport and leave New York. They safely make it through customs this time and are ready to board the plane when the two young women have an argument. Blanca is still immature and does not realize that she can do better in life than being a drug mule. Maria has come to her senses after talking to Lucy’s sister and realizes that life as a drug mule or life back in Colombia really is not a life at all. She now knows that there are more opportunities for her in the United States and especially in New York. While Blanca boards the plane and waits for Maria to board, Maria turns around without saying a word and vows never to leave the United States. This is a very dramatic point in the movie where Maria shows that she has learned her lessons in life and now wants to have a better life for her and her baby on the way.
Maria Full of Grace provides a chilling account of what life is like in Colombia, especially for a drug mule. It is also clear from watching this movie that there is an extremely large amount of money involved in the illegal drug industry. Research shows that a large amount of drug mules are captured in customs and on the United States borders, but the drug lords still manage to make billions of dollars every year. The mark up on their product is so large that they can afford to lose almost half of their product when drug mules are caught every day in the United States. Maria Full of Grace is not just a story of a poor family who look for better opportunities by being drug mules; it is an accurate account of the extremes people will go through to make money in poor areas. While many people make large amounts of money by producing and trafficking drugs in countries like Colombia, it is still illegal and extremely punishable in the United States. The risks are great and include imprisonment for life, or death. Due to the simple plot and drama involved in the movie, Maria Full of Grace is rated a 3.5 out of 5.
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