Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Crime Drama Hidden Gem That You Need To Watch On HBO Max

If you count yourself among the platform's many subscribers, you know HBO Max has plenty of movies. What you may not realize is that it also boasts one of the more impressive slates of international films you'll find in streaming land, featuring lauded films past and present from all corners of the world, and every genre under the sun. But for those not well-studied in global cinema, clicking into the streamer's international section can be a bit intimidating, as there are hundreds of films from which to choose. Should you start with a German Expressionist horror classic like "Vampyre," a tenderly observed Japanese family drama in "Tokyo Story," or a jazzy masterpiece from the French New Wave like "Elevator to the Gallows"?  Heck, maybe you should even go all in on an Almodóvar binge, 'cause HBO Max has five of his best-loved films available to stream, including his chilling, Antonio Banderas-fronted revenge thriller "The Skin I Live In."

To be clear, you should absolutely indulge in all of those offerings. But if you'd prefer to start your binge with a bruising crime drama steeped in decidedly modern themes, there's a hidden gem from South America in that international section that's more than worthy of a spot in your HBO Max queue. 

Maria Full of Grace is a harrowing international drama boasting a powerhouse performance

The film you'll be searching HBO Max's international section for is "Maria Full of Grace." It was written and directed by first-time filmmaker Joshua Marston and released to rave reviews (via Rotten Tomatoes) in the Summer of 2004. And yes, it's about as must-see as international drama produced in the new millennium can be. "Maria Full of Grace" tells the story of the titular woman (Catalina Sandino Moreno), a feisty 17-year-old struggling to juggle her go-nowhere job, a deadbeat boyfriend, and an unplanned pregnancy. Desperate for a new life, and in serious need of money, Maria makes the unfathomable decision to become a mule for an international drug syndicate, ultimately putting herself and her unborn child in danger as she's required to swallow dozes of narcotic-stuffed pellets and hop a flight from Bogotá to New York City.

Without spoiling much, matters quickly spin out of control once Maria hits The Big Apple, and Marston captures every harrowing moment with a gritty style, and observational approach that leaves the movie feeling more like a documentary than a work of fiction. The entire endeavor is anchored by a towering performance from Moreno, who, in her big screen debut, delivers a complex, tormented heroine critics agreed was more than worthy of the spotlight. Fittingly, she was nominated for the Academy Award for a Best Actress for her work; if you want to find out why, go ahead and watch "Maria Full of Grace" on HBO Max today.