Entertainment Weekly - 07/23/2004
"[E]xtraordinary....[The film] unfolds with a simplicity that's as breathtaking as its inevitability is harrowing."
Rolling Stone - 08/05/2004
"Remember the name Catalina Sandino Moreno. The heartfelt and harrowing performance she gives here should put her in line for a heap of year-end awards."
Movieline's Hollywood Life - 07/01/2004
"The movie is every bit as gripping and suspenseful as many far more expensive Hollywood thrillers."
Los Angeles Times - 07/15/2004
"Sandino Moreno may be in only her early 20s, but she is able to draw upon her considerable talent and training to create a portrayal that comes from deep within. She has a radiant screen presence..."
Chicago Sun-Times - 12/03/2004
"A human drama of great power..."
Sight and Sound - 03/01/2005
"[A] well-crafted, finely acted tale....Moreno's exceptional performance maintains the mix of belligerence and naivete that makes Maria such a contradictory and compelling protagonist."
Uncut - 04/01/2005
"[Moreno] bolts the movie down with an earthy, spontaneous performance."
Uncut - 01/01/2006 Ranked #24 in Uncut's Best Films Of 2005 -- "[I]ts multi-stranded, all-encompassing narrative evokes memories of Steven Soderbergh's TRAFFIC."
Wall Street Journal - 05/19/2010
"Mr. Marston is a natural dramatist, and, better still, an adventurous one."
This debut feature film by Joshua Marston tells the suspenseful and absorbing story of Maria, a poor, pregnant Columbian teenager (Catalina Sandina Moreno) with a soul-crushing job at a flower plantation and a rebellious streak. Her multigenerational, all-female family relies too much on her as the principle breadwinner, squandering her earnings on medicines of questionable value for her sister's baby. This drives Maria to quit, dump her immature boyfriend, and go to Bogotá where she tumbles into work as a drug mule. Like thousands of real-life Columbians, she earns money by flying to New York City with up to a kilogram of tightly wrapped heroin pellets in her stomach, risking prison or worse: instant death should even one of the pellets break open inside her. Marston based the film on actual interviews with airport customs agents and former mules; the result is an authentic, intensely cinematic experience. The camera wrings vivid color and mood from the many on-location settings and doesn't shy away from any aspect of Maria's journey, making this succeed as a suspense film, character study, and detailed examination of a rarely seen aspect of the drug wars. Thanks to the superb performance and charisma of lead actress Moreno--in her film debut--the audience stays riveted to her plight every step of the way. MARIA FULL OF GRACE made its debut at Sundance where it won the Audience Drama Award.