Maria Full of Grace

Maria Full of Grace (Spanish title: María, llena eres de gracia, lit., "Maria, you are full of grace") is a 2004 drama film written and directed by Joshua Marston. The film was produced between Colombia and the United States. Lead actress Catalina Sandino Moreno was named Best Actress at the Berlin Film Festival, and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress in the 77th Academy Awards.

Maria Full of Grace
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJoshua Marston
Produced byPaul S. Mezey
Written byJoshua Marston
StarringCatalina Sandino Moreno
Yenny Paola Vega
John Álex Toro
Guilied Lopez
Patricia Rae
Music byLeonardo Heiblum
Jacobo Lieberman
CinematographyJim Denault
Edited byAnne McCabe
Lee Percy
HBO Films
Journeyman Pictures
Distributed byFine Line Features
Release date
  • January 18, 2004 (2004-01-18) (Sundance)
  • April 2, 2004 (2004-04-02) (Colombia)
  • June 8, 2004 (2004-06-08) (USA)
Running time
101 minutes
United States
Budget$3 million
Box office$12.6 million[1]


Seventeen-year-old Colombian girl Maria Álvarez works in sweatshop-like conditions at a flower plantation. Her income helps support her family, including an unemployed sister who is a single mother, but after unjust treatment from her boss, she quits her job de-thorning roses, despite her family's vehement disapproval. Shortly thereafter, Maria discovers she is pregnant by her boyfriend, and he suggests marriage, but she declines because she does not feel she loves him, or that he loves her. On her way to Bogotá to find a new job, she is offered a position as a drug mule. Desperate, she accepts the risky offer, and swallows 62 wrapped pellets of drugs, and flies to New York City with her friend Blanca, who has also been recruited as a drug mule.

Maria is almost caught by U.S. customs who are suspicious after finding Maria's $800 in cash and wanting to make a surprise visit to a sister she "hasn't seen in years", but not knowing anywhere else to go if she isn't home. She tells them that the father of her child paid for her plane ticket. She avoids being X-rayed due to her pregnancy, and is released. The traffickers collect Maria, Blanca, and Lucy, another more experienced mule that Maria had befriended during her recruitment. The mules are held in a motel room until they pass all the drug pellets. Lucy falls ill when a drug pellet apparently ruptures inside her. Unknown to the traffickers, Maria witnesses them carrying Lucy out of the hotel room, and she sees blood stains in the bathtub. She comes to the conclusion that the traffickers cut her open to retrieve the other drug pellets inside her body. Scared, Maria convinces Blanca to escape with her while the traffickers are gone. They leave with the drugs they have passed.

Maria has nowhere to sleep, and goes to Lucy's sister's house, but doesn't reveal to the sister that Lucy is dead. Blanca soon joins her there. Eventually the sister unexpectedly hears of their involvement in her sister's death and throws them out. Blanca and Maria make an agreement to return the drugs to the traffickers and receive their money. Maria uses some of her drug money to send Lucy's body home to Colombia for a proper burial. Maria and Blanca are ready to board the plane back to Colombia when Maria decides to stay in the United States. Blanca returns home without Maria.


  • Catalina Sandino Moreno as Maria Álvarez
  • John Álex Toro as Franklin
  • Johanna Andrea Mora as Diana Álvarez
  • Virginia Ariza as Juana
  • Yenny Paola Vega as Blanca
  • Guilied Lopez as Lucy Díaz
  • Patricia Rae as Carla
  • Rodrigo Sánchez Borhorquez as the supervisor
  • Charles Albert Patiño as Felipe
  • Wilson Guerrero as Juan
  • Fabricio Suarez, Mateo Suarez as Pacho
  • Evangelina Morales as Rosita
  • Juana Guarderas as a pharmacist
  • Jaime Osorio Gómez as Javier
  • Victor Macias as Pellet maker
  • Selenis Leyva as Customs Inspector


Maria Full of Grace was first shown on January 18 at the Sundance Film Festival in the United States. On February 11, 2004, it was shown at the Berlin Film Festival; launch in Colombia occurred only on the 2nd of April of the same year. The film had a limited release on July 16, 2004, before going wide in the United States on August 6, 2004.


Critical response

The film was critically acclaimed. It garnered a 97% approval rating on the aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes, based on 144 reviews, and an average rating of 8.02/10.[2] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 87 out of 100, based on 39 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[3] According to Desson Thomson from The Washington Post, "Catalina Sandino Moreno is a Colombian Mona Lisa, a delicate, unforgettable force majeure. Add to her luminous demeanor a story that rips fleshy holes through your heart and you've got yourself a stunner of a film".[4]

Writing for Rolling Stone, Peter Travers gave the film 3 out of 4 stars, praising Moreno's performance, the screenplay, and Maston's direction, saying: "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."[5]

The film was nominated to the Golden Bear at the 54th Berlin Film Festival.

Box office

Its total worldwide gross stands at $12,594,630 ($6,529,624 at the American box office, and $6,065,006 from other territories).[1]


List of Accolades
Award / Film Festival Category Recipient(s) Result
77th Academy Awards Best Actress in a Leading Role Catalina Sandino Moreno Nominated
Argentine Film Critics Association Best Ibero-American Film Joshua Marston Won
54th Berlin Film Festival Golden Bear Joshua Marston Nominated
Silver Bear Catalina Sandino Moreno Won
Alfred Bauer Award Joshua Marston Won
25th Boston Society of Film Critics Awards Best New Filmmaker Joshua Marston 2nd Place
10th Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards Best Actress Catalina Sandino Moreno Nominated
Best Foreign Language Film Joshua Marston Nominated
Cartagena Film Festival Golden India Catalina for Best Actress Catalina Sandino Moreno Won
Special Jury Prize Joshua Marston Won
17th Chicago Film Critics Association Most Promising Performer Catalina Sandino Moreno Won
10th Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association Best Actress Catalina Sandino Moreno Nominated
Best Foreign Language Film Joshua Marston Nominated
Russell Smith Award Joshua Marston Won
Deauville Film Festival Grand Prix Joshua Marston Won
Prix du Public Joshua Marston Won
Prix de la Critique Internationale Joshua Marston Won
14th Gotham Independent Film Awards Breakthrough Actor Catalina Sandino Moreno Won
Breakthrough Director Joshua Marston Won
20th Independent Spirit Awards Best Film Paul Mezey Nominated
Best Director Joshua Marston Nominated
Best Female Lead Catalina Sandino Moreno Won
Best Supporting Female Yenny Paola Vega Nominated
Best First Screenplay Joshua Marston Won
26th London Film Critics Circle Awards Actress of the Year Catalina Sandino Moreno Nominated
30th Los Angeles Film Critics Association New Generation Award Catalina Sandino Moreno and Joshua Marston Won
76th National Board of Review Top Foreign Films Joshua Marston Won
70th New York Film Critics Circle Best First Film Joshua Marston Won
8th Online Film Critics Society Best Foreign Language Film Joshua Marston Nominated
Best Breakthrough Filmmaker Joshua Marston Nominated
Best Breakthrough Performance Catalina Sandino Moreno Won
3rd San Francisco Film Critics Circle Awards Best Foreign Language Film Joshua Marston Won
9th Satellite Awards Best Film – Drama Joshua Marston Nominated
Best Director – Motion Picture Joshua Marston Nominated
Best Actress - Drama Catalina Sandino Moreno Nominated
11th Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role Catalina Sandino Moreno Nominated
Seattle International Film Festival Best Actress Catalina Sandino Moreno Won
Sundance Film Festival Audience Award Dramatic Paul Mezey Won
8th Toronto Film Critics Association Awards Best First Feature Joshua Marston Won
5th Vancouver Film Critics Circle Best Foreign Language Film Joshua Marston Nominated
3rd Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Best Foreign Language Film Joshua Marston Won

See also


  1. hMaria Full of Grace at Box Office Mojo
  2. "Maria Full of Grace (2004)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 13 March 2018.
  3. "Maria Full of Grace Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 13 March 2018.
  4. Thompson, Desson (30 July 2004). "'Maria' Full of Grace Indeed". The Washington Post. The Washington Post Company. Retrieved 13 March 2018.
  5. Travers, Peter (14 July 2004). "Maria Full of Grace". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 13 March 2018.
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