Friday, April 30, 2010

Maria Full of Grace (Film Review)

Directed by: Joshua Marston
HBO Films

            Maria is a 17 year old pretty girl, living in a Columbian village, working in a flower estate, in the packing section. She works to help her family, to make both ends meet. She has grandmother and an unmarried sister who has a child, at home. Maria, though 17 has a sense of responsibility. But she is not satisfied with the inhuman treatment that she receives from her place of work and even home. She has a boyfriend Juan, who is takes every chance to make it with her. At 17, Maria passes from teenage to adulthood. She looks at the world with the eyes of an adult, but she is not taken serious by many- family, workplace and boyfriend.
            She rebels with the unjust society which treats her with contempt. She wants to feel that she is important too, she is a human being too. At work, she had to put up with her boss’ strictness. Finally, she got courage to leave her job. She protested. She told her boss in the face that she is quitting. That was her very first self assertion.
            Later that day, she had to talk hard to her grandma and sister. She protested. In the evening, while partying with her friends, they appreciate her courage. But their appreciation is limited to a toast and a peg of liqueur. Life was staring at her face. She had to find a job. She had to find and define a place in this world. She ventures out to find a self-definition.
            But she was faced with another grave problem. Relationship with Juan presented her with a child in her womb. Juan, another young lad is not mature enough to accept this. They break up. Maria could not accept the stubbornness of Juan. She needed to be sure of whether Juan loved her or her body. Juan failed to gain her confidence. She decides to go on her own.
            She meets Franklin at that party. While looking for a job, Franklin said he could help her. She takes her to a drug smuggler. The job was risky. It was of a mule- smuggling drugs in the stomach, by swallowing pellets. But looking at the remuneration, 8 million Pesos, she decides to give in. Life for her was not as tempting enough as this job. A family that looks to make use of her, a boyfriend who cannot understand her, a world full of selfish people... she could easily said yes to the drug smuggler’s job.
            She meets another mule, named Lucy. They make friends. Lucy was a good girl. Necessity makes all of them do this. Maria gets trained to be a mule, by Lucy. Their first assignment was to smuggle drugs to New York. On the day of the journey, they learn that there are four of them on the same flight. One was her own friend Blanca.
            On arrival at New York, one of them gets caught. Maria escapes the customs check because she was pregnant. It was a close shave. Lucy develops disturbance in the stomach, since one of the pellets broke inside her. She got sick in the hotel. Before she got worse, she gave her sisters New York address to Maria. The drug dealers cut her belly open and took out the pellets and disposed her body off. Terrorised by seeing what happened, she escapes taking the pellets, along with Blanca. They reach Lucy’s sister. They give shelter, but the girls are not able to tell them what happened. With the help of a local grocer, they find out Lucy’s body and tell the family about what happened.
            In the meantime, they returned the pellets and got paid for the job. With the money, Maria arranged to send Lucy’s body back to Columbia. But she was not able to compromise with the world. Everything was set for her return to Columbia. At the airport, she decides not to go. She says goodbye to Blanca and returns to the heart of an unknown world, with the baby in her womb.
            For Maria, life had not been fair and comfortable. Within a few days, she learnt a lot of about a big, unfair world out there. She is not that kind of woman who would say, ‘I surrender.’ She decides to give it a fight. Maria’s spirit is not easily defeatable. She had to fight with the drug dealers to get her payment for doing this job. She had to fight with Lucy’s sister to make her understand that she was innocent. Maria, in her 17 years of life on earth saw more than her age. She still said ‘no’ to the world.
            The film catches the helplessness of a generation of the Latin American youth, at the face of meaninglessness in life. The urge to look away to find meaning and comfort comes from the lack of such opportunities in one’s own homeland. The globalised world leaves no chance for less privileged, to become what they want to be. A strange world indeed! It doesn’t leave enough space for the marginalized to dream big. The space defined for them is one of an accomplice- that of a mule. They are just carriers of others’ illegal goods, making them rich. They have no personal space. They are called mules- just carriers. A personal identity is denied to them. So they have to be within the structure framed for them. A rat-hole.
            Maria’s protest and courage is the ordinary human being’s struggle to get a space in this big, wide world. Ideologies and theories are for the affluent. The ordinary has to fight to find a place. That is what Maria did. She had the fighting spirit, even when she failed to find meaning. Terrified by a merciless world, she sheds a tear or two to gain strength. And she resurrects from ashes to stand up again.
            Let our world bear more Marias. We need them.
Sajit Olickal sj