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Karie (site owner) Written by Karie (site owner)
Jan. 16, 2005 | 10:56 PM

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Written & Directed by Joshua Marston
Review by Karie Bible

Maria Alvarez (Catalina Sandino Moreno) lives in a small rural town in Colombia.  Her life is one of extreme financial hardship and non-existent opportunities.  Her whole family lives under one roof in very cramped quarters.  Maria works on a flower plantation and is treated like an inhuman slave by her supervisor.  At 17, Maria is fearless, passionate and determined to rise above her harsh circumstances.  When she discovers she is pregnant, her boyfriend Juan (Wilson Guerrero) offers to marry her simply because that is what he should do, not what he wants to do.  Maria refuses to settle for this.  With few options Maria examines her future and finds help from Franklin (Jhon Alex Toro) who she met at a party.  He tells her about a way that she can travel and make money.  Seizing the opportunity to leave Columbia and to better her life, Maria takes action.  The ?job? as it turns out is working as a drug mule.  She has to swallow numerous thumb- sized rubber pellets filled with heroin and smuggle them into the America.  Fortunately Maria is calm under pressure and the $5,000 payment will doubtless change her life.  Her calm and resolve is put to the test when she is detained by customs officers.  The film shows every stage of Maria?s journey and the nerve wracking difficulties it entails.

Instead of being a generic thriller, this film portrays a young woman?s transformation under the most brutal of circumstances.  With every set back and hardship, Maria grows stronger in her resolve to carve out a new and better life for herself.  Sandino Moreno is powerful and effective in the role of Maria.  At such a young age she is already able to mine great emotional depths.  In his feature debut, Joshua Marston shows a great eye for detail and emotional realism.  His approach is naturalistic and never feels false or contrived. 

The most disturbing realization of this film is the fact that there are thousands of people like Maria who have similar stories.  It is incredible to think of what these people risk to gain the freedom and opportunities that we enjoy every day.  In spite of the grim story, at the end of the film lies a feeling of hope.  Just looking into her face and eyes, you know Maria will find peace and prosperity.  She already has grace. 

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