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The 100 Best Movies Of The Complex Decade

35. Maria Full Of Grace (2004)

Director: Joshua Marston
Stars: Catalina Sandino Moreno, Virginia Ariza, Yenny Paola Vega, Patricia Rae

Movies about the drug trade tend to offer several visceral qualities, namely high body-counts, blood-drenched gunfights, and at least one cop character seeking justice. What makes writer-director Joshua Marston's harrowing Maria Full Of Grace such a masterwork is how starkly it goes against those expectations.

Covering thematic ground similar to films like Traffic, Maria Full Of Grace opts for a much more intimate approach, centering its narrative around a well-meaning, Bogota, Colombia, teenager (an exceptional Catalina Sandino Moreno) who smuggles drugs into the U.S. in order to provide for her poor family. The acting is impeccable, and Marston's script, along with his mostly observational, undistracted direction, taps into the heart of a seemingly heartless subculture.

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