Maria Full of Grace (2004)
dir. Joshua Marston
Catalina Sandino Moreno (Paris, Je T'Aime, 2006)
Monique Gabriela Curnen (Lady in the Water, 2006)
The last two movies I watched were both duds, so I decided to take a safe bet and picked a well-reviewed Spanish-language film; because I'm all about those. Unlike the last two movies - this was neither inane nor irritating.
The plot is that Maria, a seventeen year old living in rural Columbia, takes a job as a drug mule only to realize that the glamorous world of trafficking has a seedy underbelly.
The really compelling aspect is that Maria seems to be the only self-aware character in her world. Everyone else moves along with a status quo but Maria refuses to submit to normative behavior and she gets punished for it. When she accepts the mule job, it's partly because she needs the money and she's in a position of weakness, but mostly it's because she doesn't want to work on the flower plantation anymore. That's important, because it means that she's not a passive character - she isn't getting shunted around by the plot, she's making choices.
When the shit hits the fan one of the other girls dies because the drugs leaked into her belly and they cut her open to get the rest out. That's when Maria realizes that their bodies are valueless to the dealers and she steals the drugs and makes her friend Blanca run away with her. So really this is a story about self-actualization, wherein Maria struggles to achieve self-reliance against everyone who is trying to take away her autonomy. Her very body is turned into an object of transport but her goal is carry no one's burdens but her own.