Movie: Maria Full of Grace

Our Rating: 4.00

If you're looking for socially conscious character drama unencumbered by sensationalism, make a date with Catalina Sandino Moreno, the star of this season's most involving personal odyssey. As Maria, a pregnant 17-year-old conscripted into working as an in-flight drug mule, Moreno brings an almost Biblical equipoise to the story of her character's harrowing first Colombia-to-New York run. The actress has help from the film's subtle but persistent visual styling, which keeps placing the beleaguered Maria in upward-looking poses that suggest religious salvation: Seeing her swallow 62 pellets of dope before takeoff, we can't help but perceive a quietly indignant toxin-as-Eucharist metaphor. Yet for all the tweaking of sacred iconography, there's an undercurrent of optimism to the film, laying the groundwork for a surprisingly convincing depiction of America as the land of opportunity – or at least lesser horror than Maria faces at home. We're No. 1, director Joshua Marston allows, if only by default.

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