Universal acclaim - based on 39 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 38 out of 39
  2. Negative: 0 out of 39
  1. Timely, pointed messages about oppression and opportunity come poignantly through in strongly dramatic terms.
  2. Moreno, with her wide, watchful eyes, owns the camera - and the film. Her performance is perfectly natural and profoundly moving. Maria Full of Grace is a remarkable picture, full of suspense and discovery.
  3. A revelatory independent film whose moments of incredible sadness are offset by the same state of grace that blesses its astonishing title character.
  4. 100
    Disturbing. It is impossible to sit through Maria Full of Grace and not be affected by the circumstances of the characters. For that, the credit must go to Marston and his actors.
  5. Reviewed by: Leah McLaren
    A fantastic film.
  6. Unfolds with a simplicity that's as breathtaking as its inevitability is harrowing.
  7. Reviewed by: Karen Karbo
    Astonishes on many levels.
  8. 100
    In its vitality and finesse, Maria Full of Grace is all of a piece -- and both artistically and spiritually itself full of grace.
  9. Sustains a documentary authenticity that is as astonishing as it is offhand. Even when you're on the edge of your seat, it never sacrifices a calm, clear-sighted humanity for the sake of melodrama or cheap moralizing.
  10. 100
    A story that rips fleshy holes through your heart.
  11. 100
    Marston would probably have made an interesting movie no matter how he had shot it, but the way he dramatized the material seems instinctively right: he goes detail by detail, emotion by emotion, eliding nothing, exaggerating nothing.
  12. 90
    The movie is thrillingly subjective, teeming with the fullness of everyday proletarian life that one finds in the work of the directors who most influenced Marston in the making of this movie: Hector Babenco and the Brazilian realists, Ken Loach and Mike Leigh.
  13. Reviewed by: David Ansen
    The movie puts us in Maria's shoes, taking us step by suspenseful step through her physical and spiritual ordeal.
  14. Reviewed by: Richard Schickel
    What we come to care most about in writer-director Joshua Marston's film is how his heroine achieves the state promised by his title, Maria Full of Grace. Our emotional investment in her derives primarily from the astonishing performance of Moreno, 23.
  15. A remarkable -- and harrowing -- debut feature that makes you think there's hope after all for the future of independent films.
  16. 90
    A gripping, deeply moving film
  17. 89
    This may be the first film to examine the intricacies of the Colombia-to-U.S. drug route in any detail.
  18. 88
    The movie has the freshness and urgency of life actually happening.
  19. Takes a simple story and molds it into something eloquent and menacing.
  20. 88
    More than a ripped-from-the- headlines drug drama, Maria Full of Grace is like a horror movie made real.
  21. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    Gracefully acted, and the story packs a powerful punch straight to the gut.
  22. 88
    Has a power that doesn't announce itself until it's over: You leave not wanting to give up on life, just resentful of the world we live in.
  23. Reviewed by: Peter Debruge
    In his first feature, director Joshua Marston passes no judgments. He doesn't condemn drugs. He merely depicts the system that has arisen to support this illicit trade.
  24. The true heartbreak of Maria Full of Grace is that it never comes.
  25. Marston doesn't develop the characters, except for the strong-willed and quick-witted Maria.
  26. Reviewed by: KJ Doughton
    Isn’t really about drugs. It’s about what motivates people to make hard choices. However, deciding whether or not to view this unique glimpse into a seldom seen world should be easy. It’s a must-see.
  27. 80
    It's a remarkably assured and humane feature debut.
  28. Reviewed by: David Edelstein
    The whole movie, of course, is a setting for its jewel, Catalina Sandino Moreno as Maria: With her clear, round eyes, long dark hair, and radiant transparency, she brings to mind two of the loveliest ingénues of the last quarter-century -- Meg Tilly and Jennifer Connelly.
  29. The depiction of her risky voyage and what happens afterward is highly suspenseful and entirely believable.
  30. 75
    Marston builds incredible tension. But it's the human drama etched on Moreno's young, weary face that gives Maria its potent punch.
  31. 75
    Shot in the style of a documentary, which lends the movie an aura of utter realism, Maria Full of Grace derives an unsettling power from the clinical details of Maria's ordeal.
  32. Accomplishes two great things on what was undoubtedly a minuscule budget. It breathes life into a small story that has larger ramifications. It also shows that America, as represented by Jackson Heights, is still the promised land for people about whom movies are rarely made.
  33. The film's only misstep is its again-used theme (especially when it comes to a woman's rite of passage) of exacting some punishing loss when our heroine pushes to transcend her limitations by seeking a better life.
  34. Reviewed by: Duane Byrge
    Ultimately, the ending is a bit of a cop-out, but that's a small criticism for a film with such decent perspectives.
  35. 70
    Moreno's subtly calibrated mix of intelligence, naivete, rebelliousness, charisma and practicality produces an unforgettable protagonist; even Maria's recklessness seems reasonable because it's so clearly rooted in desperation.
  36. 70
    Grim but never gratuitous.
  37. Be forewarned: Scenes of the protagonist learning to swallow the drug pellets will make many viewers queasy. Rarely has the power of suggestion been so unsettling.
  38. Reviewed by: David Rooney
    Writer-director Joshua Marston's strikingly confident debut maintains an unblinking focus and sustains an almost unbearable level of tension.
  39. Reviewed by: Angie Errigo
    Not for anyone with a sensitive gag reflex. Joshua Marston provides a harrowing depiction of drug- muling for dummies. The raw, revolting, dangerous details of such an undertaking are graphic.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 79 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 33 out of 35
  2. Negative: 0 out of 35
  1. Jun 30, 2013
    One the best films from Colombia, together with "Our Lady of the Assassins" or "The Little Roses Girl". Great début for Catalina Sandino.One the best films from Colombia, together with "Our Lady of the Assassins" or "The Little Roses Girl". Great début for Catalina Sandino. It's truth all about tragic destiny to these South American girls. Great film! Full Review »
  2. Ryan
    Feb 20, 2007
    Great, captivating.
  3. JeffM.
    Aug 14, 2006
    Not a "thriller" in the traditinoal genre sense, yet Maria's journey had me on the edge of my seat throughout.