Directed by Joshua Marston, starring Catalina Sandino Moreno, Yenny Paola, Johanna Andrea Mora, Wilson Guerrero, John Álex Toro, Guilied Lopez and Patricia Rae.
Maria is 17 and lives with four generations of her family in a small Colombian town. She is the sole breadwinner, working in a botanical sweatshop where she takes the thorns off roses. She's stubborn, quick-tempered and more intelligent than the job she finds herself in. She's also pregnant.
Finally having enough of the job, the demands of her family and a boyfriend who says he doesn't love her but thinks he should still marry her, Maria decides to turn her life around - in the worst way possible. She agrees to be a drug mule on a flight from Bogota to New York, swallowing 62 pellets for a couple of thousand dollars and a return ticket. And with reassurances from the dealers, what could possibly go wrong?
Marston's unfussy film acts like a lower-key companion piece to Steven Soderbergh's Oscar-winning 'Traffic'. There are no car chases, shootouts or big speeches about doing the right thing, just a look at how the poor decide on the most dangerous option to escape their drudgery and desperation and what happens once they've made that decision.
It would be a rather short and pointless film if we weren't sympathetic to Maria from the outset, but Marston plays on your conflicting feelings of wanting to see her get through customs and get her money while simultaneously cursing her for being so stupid in the first place. You don't think about her crime too much, and that helps you get into the mindset of people who think that risking their life and freedom is their only way out.
Oscar-nominated for her performance as the gutsy, resourceful teenager, newcomer Moreno has the presence to suggest that she's not going to be one of the people whom Hollywood grants a night out to, only to disappear from the spotlight, never to be seen by big audiences again. She's remarkably natural and suitably understated in a film that works as social commentary, compelling drama and, in one particular section, better than most thrillers.
Sadly, 30 years down the line you'll know it won't have dated a day.