Maria Full Of Grace

aka MARIA, LLENA ERES DE GRACIA
Movie Review by Susan Hodgetts

Starring: Catalina Sandino Moreno, Yenny Paola Vega, Guilied Lopez, Patricia Rae
Director: Joshua Marston

Freshly triumphant from last year’s Sundance Film Festival where it won the coveted Audience Award, and a runaway success on the European festival circuit where it garnered more top trophies, Joshua Marston’s debut feature justifies all its acclaim. With an amazing central performance from unknown Colombian actress Catalina Sandino Moreno and an achingly human story at its core, you’ll be hard pushed not to be captivated by this thought provoking and intelligent film.

17 year-old Maria Alvarez de-thorns roses in a flower factory in a rural Colombian town north of Bogota. Her dead-end job and the fact that she contributes most of her wages to the running of the household lead to family clashes and personal frustration. To make matters worse, Maria is pregnant by her noisome local boyfriend Juan, whom she feels nothing for. Feisty, spirited Maria knows she can make more of herself, but when she quits her job after a spat with her mean boss, she appears to let herself in for more than she can handle. Lured by a trip to New York and some cash that could help her escape her desperately dead-end situation, she is persuaded by charmer Franklin to become a drugs mule. Her best friend Blanca joins her, and with two others they embark on a journey that will change all their lives for ever.

Gritty and honest, the film offers no sugar-coated pill, but 23 year-old newcomer Moreno creates a very human heroine and, whilst holding her head up high in a world of stark choices, doesn’t hide Maria’s flaws. She does not always do or say the right thing, or know the best course of action.

Moreno has just been nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for her role as Maria and on this evidence can look forward to a very promising career, as can director Joshua Marston, who manages to get extremely honest, vulnerable and naturalistic performances from all of his actors.

5 out of 6 stars

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