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Movie Review – Maria Full of Grace
Filmed primarily in Colombia, Maria Full of Grace is a drama film about the illegal drug industry that takes place between Colombia and the United States. The film 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 lower GDPs (gross domestic products). Viewers will see the extremes people will go through to smuggle drugs through customs and earn extremely large sums of money.
At the start of the film, we get an idea of Maria’s daily life in Colombia. She works in a flower shop, removing thorns from roses. His boss roams the islands of his workers all day asking for more production and asking if his workers are meeting their quotas. Maria comes home every day to a small house of about three rooms that she shares with her mother, her two sisters and her little niece. She also has a boyfriend named Juan who doesn’t have much of a bright future and has a carefree attitude. Juan and Maria often walk around the city and stop to kiss or climb the rooftops to gain some privacy.
The director depicts an active nightlife in the Colombian town 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 doesn’t pay much attention to Maria, leaving her to find guys for her friends and for Maria to get hit on by other young men at parties. She looks like a young woman who has morals and is wiser than most of her friends, leading the viewer to think that she and Juan won’t make it out together. This is especially evident when a hip young man named Franklin approaches her and catches her eye unlike most other men. Franklin and Maria end up separating but will find each other again.
Maria and Juan are obviously very attracted to each other, and as Maria talks to Juan privately one afternoon, she tells him that she is pregnant with his child. Juan reacts to this news in a very immature way, first getting angry, then asking Maria to marry him. He feels it’s his responsibility and the right thing to do right now. She doesn’t say yes to him because she feels he isn’t genuine and doesn’t 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, which irritates her and causes her to quit her job. She returns home to argue with her mother and sisters who accuse her of being selfish because the family is in dire need of money.
A frustrated Maria leaves home to think about a new job and runs into Franklin on his motorcycle. She gets on the motorbike with him and they go to town together for a drink and to talk to one of his friends. It’s clear at this point that Franklin is trying to sweep Maria off her feet, and she’s really enjoying his relaxing company. The two end up going to a bar where a mafia-looking man is sitting in the corner. Franklin approaches him and asks the man to agree to talk to Maria for a moment. The dirty-looking man is heavily involved in the cocaine trade and offers Maria a job. She lies about her age, saying she is eighteen when she is actually only seventeen, and says she will happily work for him. The man gives her several hundred dollars to show 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 gets really interesting when Maria arrives at the doctor’s office a few days later. She is led upstairs through a secret passage where the doctor and the drug baron are waiting for her. The doctor asks him to swallow a lubricating liquid and a pill that will slow down his digestion process. The drug lord, whose name is Javier, asks him to swallow a total of sixty-two pellets coated in synthetic rubber and full of cocaine. She struggles swallowing all the pellets, but manages to put them all in her stomach and on a plane to New York. Once in New York, she will fully digest the pellets and wash them before giving them 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 succeeds on this trip, she has the chance to win over five thousand dollars. In a country like Colombia where people don’t have the opportunity to earn a lot of money, five thousand dollars can change a life. While Maria and Blanca have severe stomach pains during the flight, Lucy falls 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 splitting open in her stomach.
However, Maria looks suspicious as she goes through customs at New York airport. The police and customs drag him into an examination room to start questioning him in Spanish. She denies having any form of drugs in her body, but cannot produce a believable story for the officers. Maria is forced to give a urine sample to rule out drugs in her system when the agents discover she is pregnant. Officers really want to do a CT scan on her stomach to look for capsules or lozenges containing medicine, but quickly rule her out due to her pregnancy. Fortunately, Maria is released from the customs office and meets Lucy and Blanca.
The three young women find themselves 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 up. Maria and Blanca quickly produce the shots, but Lucy is still in grave danger. It turns out that a pellet opened in her stomach where she received a lethal dose of cocaine. While she is in the bathroom, she faints and dies under the jet of water from the shower. The young men briefly send Lucy and Blanca out of the room, and when they return to the room, they are terrified. Lucy is gone, but there’s blood all over the tub and a feeling 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 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 Latin women with little prospect of finding employment. He discovers that the two women are drug mules and have massive amounts of cocaine in their purses, and also informs them that Lucy was in fact gutted and killed at the hotel so the young men could get her drugs back. .
Maria and Blanca are terrified and know that if they don’t do the right thing, they too will be killed. Therefore, they contact the drug distributors and hand over the cocaine pellets. After counting all the pellets, the young men do the right thing and pay the two girls the full amount of money owed to each. Maria feels guilty for taking advantage of Lucy’s sister and grateful that she was allowed to stay in the woman’s apartment, so she gives the majority of her money to Lucy’s sister. This money is intended to pay off his debt to the woman and, more importantly, to pay for Lucy’s funeral.
Now that Maria and Blanca have the money to return home to Colombia and have resolved the situation safely with their cocaine pellets, they must return to the airport and leave New York. They go through customs this time without incident and are ready to board the plane when the two young women are arguing. Blanca is still immature and doesn’t realize she can do better in life than being a drug mule. Maria comes to her senses after talking to Lucy’s sister and realizes that life as a drug mule or life in Colombia really isn’t a life at all. She now knows that there are more opportunities for her in the United States and especially in New York. As Blanca boards the plane and waits for Maria to board, Maria turns around without saying a word and swears never to leave the United States. It’s a very dramatic moment in the film where Maria shows that she has learned her life lessons and now wants to have a better life for herself and her baby on the way.
Maria Full of Grace provides a chilling account of life 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 large numbers of drug mules are caught at US customs and borders, but the drug lords still manage to make billions of dollars every year. The profit margin 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 the story of a poor family seeking better opportunities by being drug mules; it is an accurate account of the extremes people will go through to earn money in poor areas. While many people make large sums of money producing and trafficking drugs in countries like Colombia, it remains illegal and extremely punishable in the United States. The risks are great and include life imprisonment or death. Due to the straightforward plot and drama involved in the film, Maria Full of Grace is rated 3.5 out of 5.
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