Tense Teen Trek: Maria Full
Spotlighting a 17-year-old girl from rural Colombia,
who drifts into the drug trade, this must-see summer
film marks striking debuts for both its writer-director
Joshua Marston and lead, the incandescent, Catalina Sandino
Moreno, as Maria. A bright, spirited young woman, Maria
stays in a brain-numbing job in a rose plantation because
her greedy family depends on her minuscule paycheck.
But when her boss hounds her to be more productive, she
impulsively quits. At the same time, she finds she is
pregnant by her deadbeat boyfriend, Juan (Wilson Guerrero),
who will marry her because he has to. An offer she refuses.
En route Bogota to look for work as a maid, she runs
into Franklin (Jhon Alex Toro), a cool guy she met at
a club, who lures her into the drug trade as a highly
paid mule, smuggling heroin into the US. His boss, Javier
(Jaime Osorio Gomez), a deceptively paternal supplier,
gives her a cash advance and explains the rules, downplaying
any danger. She also meets Lucy (Guilied Lopez), a slightly
older mule, who offers additional pointers. Maria understands
the great risks, but views the job, which pays $5,000
per trip, as her only opportunity to survive. The average
annual income in Columbia is $1,830.
In the next 24 hours, Maria learns how to swallow 64
heroin filled grape-size rubber pellets. If even one
bursts, death is certain. On the tense plane trip with
fellow mules, including her best friend Blanca, (Yenny
Paola Vega), Lucy feels ill, suggesting a burst pellet.
More suspense follows at US Customs: Maria watches as
an unidentified mule is apprehended, and she narrowly
escapes being x-rayed because agents find she is pregnant.
Their situation worsens when
Maria, Blanca and Lucy are held captive in a sleazy
motel room until they eliminate their drugs. But Lucy’s
condition causes brutal consequences and the other
The film’s final stretch is an intimate portrait
of the Colombian community in Queens. Here, Don Fernando
(Orlando Tobon) befriends Maria. In real life, a Queens-based
travel agent, Tobon has worked on behalf of drug mules
and their families since the 1980’s. In the end,
Maria emerges full of grace and ready for a new life.
(Spanish subtitled in English, 101 minutes, R-rated.)#