María Álvarez, an independent, feisty, and underpaid seventeen-year-old Colombian rose packager is stuck in a tedious life and a dead-end relationship with her good-for-nothing boyfriend, Juan. And as if things weren't bad enough, an unexpected pregnancy and an ugly altercation with her unfair boss will tempt María to accept the risky offer to become a drug mule, smuggling drugs from Bogotá to New York City. But, as things rapidly spiral out of control, suddenly, the option of an early retirement and a peaceful future for both María and her unborn baby begins to fade away. Is there a way out from this hopeless predicament?Written by
Catalina Sandino Moreno prepared for her role by working in a Colombian flower plantation for two weeks cutting roses. She did not meet with real drug mules because she wanted to appear to be as clueless to the process and the consequences as Maria was. See more »
After Maria gives Don Fernando the money for Lucy's family, she takes her wallet out twice. See more »
Picoteando Por Ahi
Written by Henry Fiol
Performed by Henry Fiol See more »
It probably sounds depressing -- three girls from a village in Colombia find themselves broke, are hired as mules to smuggle drugs into New York by swallowing little condoms full, get mixed up with unfeeling and possibly murderous receivers in America, and find themselves almost broke again, or worse.
But this is almost a documentary of what these young girls go through. You come away knowing the DETAILS of how this is all done. Of course we've heard of smuggling drugs in by swallowed condoms. It's in a famous early episode of "Law and Order." And breaking news has it that now dogs are being used -- the reporter always specifies that they are "puppies." But it's informative to see how the process actually works. The three girls we follow from Colombia to New York are not among the wretched poor. Maria, Blanca, and Luci are rather working class but their incomes are too low for them to manage a normal existence and swallowing some dope seems like an easy way to add enough to their incomes to keep their heads above water. The challenges facing them don't include starvation but less dramatic problems like having your electricity shut off.
I'll just mention one detail. I'd always thought that the organizer of the plan would dump a few teaspoons of coke into a condom, tie it off, snip off the excess, and -- voila! A container the size of a grape. But no. These guys are ergonomically sophisticated. There is a manual device that crimps off each stuffed and swollen condom at a length of about 2 inches. They're BIG bundles. The girls have to practice by eating large grapes. And the bundles are coated with oil so that they can be swallowed without activating the gag reflex. It's a pretty disgusting and humiliating experience, what with going through a customs office that knows very well you're carrying, and having to expel them while anxious dealers wait around for you. And of course, if one of the bundles suffers an untimely pop, well what happens to you is what happens to the puppies who are now being used.
But the movie isn't just educational in a narrow sense. Maria, a beautiful girl, is only 17 and pregnant. She's compliant but intelligent, and she retains her dignity. Luci gets sick and suffers the puppy treatment, leaving a bathtub of blood. Blanca, homely and plump and rather dumb, departs for Bogota. And Maria is left alone, friendless, and homeless in Queens. Now THAT is something that shouldn't happen to a dog. The scene is which she and Blanca part at Newark Airport is wordless and painful to watch.
The director handles all of this with simple restraint, wisely, because the narrative itself is strong enough to carry the movie. Maria may be strong but she's impulsive too -- that pregnancy, that decision to be a "mula". He doesn't preach at all. And there are no dazzling directorial displays. The director is a guy in charge of his talent. Maria may be full of grace but she is also full of a lot of other things -- a baby, heroin, resentment. And there is an almost unnoticeable commercial billboard behind her as she leaves Blanca, "It's What's Inside That Counts."
As Maria, Catalina Moreno seems both innocent and strong, poised as it were between the unfortunate child she's left behind and the hardened whore she is likely to become. She rarely loses composure. At first I thought it was because she simply was not a seasoned actress, but there is a scene in which she watches the ultrasound image of her fetus and she giggles a little and her face lights up with expectant happiness. It's the only time she grins in the entire movie and it makes her seem to glow joyously. And unthinkingly too. That baby is going to cost a fortune and probably won't go to Philips Andover.
It's a heartbreaking movie, really, but strangely not depressing. Some people are rotten, others are kindly, and most are just trying to get along. If it's depressing, well, so is life at the mall.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?
| Report this