> Volume 6 > Number 22


Joshua Marston

Catalina Sandino Moreno
Patricia Rae
Guilied Lopez
Orlando Tobon
John Ńlex Toro
Yenny Paola Vega

Release: 16 Jul. 04

Maria Full of Grace


Taking what was an effective 30 minute subplot in Alastair Reidís Traffik miniseries (not the atrocious made-for-American-cable bastardization of it) and devoting a very long two hours to it, Maria Full of Grace maybe one of the most graceless films to come out of Sundance this year. The characters are broad and barely recognizable, and the screenplay never diverts from its completely transparent route. I fear that this is the type of proto-neo-realism that people enervated by years of Larry Clark and Harmony Korine will latch onto. Like their films (though this isnít near as risible as some of their work), Maria Full of Grace has a statement and then spends forever pounding into the skulls of the audience. It tries to seem observant, but is actually just obnoxious.

Looking at the opportunities for the impoverished women of Columbia, this How to Become a Mule story is the type of fully obvious morality story that is a dime a dozen in independent films. Just because there are subtitles and some shaky camera work doesnít make this any more notable. Worst of all, the ways the director attempts meaningful gestures towards symbolism are so painfully overwrought that they lose any impact. By the time Maria is given her communion, small, round pouches of cocaine, the filmís virgin mother dynamic becomes less a fear for the audience (would any director be dumb enough to pound the symbols in so noticeably?) and more an certainty.

I know Iím being harsh on Joshua Marston, a novice filmmaker who at least deserves credit for making a film about something he likely doesnít know much about. Maria Full of Grace, whatever blatant misfires it may unfurl is a film that means well, and the directorís decision to at least make a statement about the drug smuggling situation in Columbia. I just feel that his decision to make a movie out of it was unwise -- this story could have done well as a novel, where symbols are often heralded no matter how barefaced they are

©2004, David Perry,, 28 May 2004