My current Top 5

My current Top 5


Best Actress 2004: Catalina Sandino Moreno in "Maria Full of Grace"

At the age of 23 Catalina Sandino Moreno gave her film debut in Maria Full of Grace – and received an Oscar nomination for it. She played Maria Alvarez, a young pregnant woman who lives in a poor village in Colombia. To earn money, she agrees to work as a ‘mule’ by carrying drugs into the United States by swallowing drug-filled pellets.

In a lot of scenes, it is rather visible that this is Catalina’s film debut. Sometimes her face appears a little too blank, sometimes her inexperience becomes a bit too obvious. But the wonderful thing is that Miss Moreno never lets this hurt her performance in any way but rather makes all these features a part of Maria’s character which results in a very raw and realistic performance that could easily be a role-model for every beginning actor.

Catalina never overacts or tries to ‘act’ too obviously which would be possible considering her inexperience. Instead, she gives a beautifully understated and subtle performance which helps to make Maria a very captivating character and her dangerous journey so riveting. Everything that Catarina does feels very naturally. She plays Maria as exactly what she is – a 17-year old girl who is unsatisfied with her life and her job at a flower plantation. She has to give most of her money to her sister who has a little baby and she is also not too happy with her boyfriend. When she gets pregnant and tells him about it, he wants to marry her but Maria refuses – she sees the world realistically, she knows that they don’t love each other and that they would never have a happy life. Instead, Maria wants her freedom and her own life. Like all young people, she rejects the authority from her sister and her mother and when her boss at the flower plantation treats her unjustly, she quits even though she doesn’t know where else she could earn money. When she meets a young man who offers her a job as a ‘mule’ which could give her financial security, she doesn’t need much time to accept it – even though the transport of the drugs might kill her if one of the pellets rips inside of her.

Catalina flawlessly demonstrates all the different feelings that Maria is experiencing in her preparation for the journey. Her hope for a better life but also her fear of being caught – or worse. Catalina’s success in the part is that she doesn’t show Maria as a naïve young woman but instead that Maria is always aware of what she is doing – or at least that’s what she thinks. Like a lot of 17-year olds, she thinks that she already knows everything and that she can handle a situation like this. By never overplaying the fear and worries of Maria, Catalina is able to add a lot of tension to the scenes when Maria takes off to America.

Catalina also wonderfully shows how Maria grows in a very short time in America. She doesn’t only have to deal with the police and brutal drug dealers but she also has to take care of her friend who also decided to smuggle drugs into the country and with whom she later flees from the criminals. In a few days, Maria has learnt the realities of life. But even though Maria is a different country and has to deal with criminals, she hasn’t lost her own willpower and her own sense of right and wrong. She openly tells the criminals that she wants the money that should have gone to another girl who died and give it to the family of the girl. Maria is not willing to be repressed by anyone.

Catalina is amazing able to show all the complexities of Maria and carry the movie with a wonderfully simple performance that never draws attention to itself. Instead, she completely disappears into the character and gives a face to all the people who have no other choice but risking their life and taking part in crimes. But in the part of Maria, Catalina never asks for forgiveness or tries to show Maria as a suffering heroine. She simple demonstrates her situation, her dreams, her hopelessness and how she finally ended up in a little room, swallowing over 60 drug-pellets.

Catalina’s prim charm is wonderfully suited for her part as the headstrong but also insecure Maria. She hits all the right notes and makes Maria an unforgettable character by giving a very subtle, relaxed and natural performance that dominates the movie and helps to tell this very moving and gripping story. For this, she gets


joe burns said...

Great! Is this the only performance you hadn't seen before doing a profile of this year?

Fritz said...

No, Kate was also new for me!

Anonymous said...

Perfect rating!

Fritz said...

I know! ;-)