“ Certifikation: TBA / Genre: Action „
Director - Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
Stars - Sean Penn, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Benicio Del Toro and Naomi Watts
Genre - Drama
Run Time - 125mins
Paul Rivers is critically ill, waiting for a heart transplant with only a month to live. His wife wants to become pregnant with his child which involves surgery and then artificial insemination.
Christina Peck is happily married with two children. She has a loving, happy family and is secure in her life as it is.
Jack Jordan is an ex-convict; he has a wife and two children but struggles financially to provide for them.
An accident which kills several people uproots all three of these families and although they were once strangers their lives become entangled in one anothers in a very deep way.
My initial impressions of this film weren't brilliant. The film is shot all out of order - it flits between each family and backwards and forwards in time. To be honest I almost gave up on it within the first half an hour because I found this really difficult to follow and even harder to understand what was going on! However as the film went on I slowly began to be able to piece the different clips together and see the bigger picture behind it all.
I usually find films that are two hours long too long to hold my attention but although I did struggle at the beginning due to the way the film is shot I also found that worked to its advantage in this sense since it had me thinking and trying to fit each piece together and therefore kept my attention the whole time.
The acting is excellent and every character was completely believable and whilst the way it was shot prevented me from fully experiencing the emotions that went with each clip I did find myself sympathising with each of their positions and relating to each character as much as the way it was structured allowed me to.
21 grams deals with some very heavy issues such as grief, transplants and critical illness and so was never going to be an easy, light-hearted watch however I feel that these issues are dealt with very well. The issues are dealt with sensitively and tactfully without shying away from any of the difficulties relating to them.
Unfortunately though I have to drop two stars off my rating of this film because of the way it was shot. It's very disjointed and very difficult to follow. This prevented me relating to the characters in the way I would have liked to and prevented me from fully understanding what was going on. It wasn't until right at the very end that I understood how it all fit together and by then I was so confused by the last two hours it just didn't work for me. It's one of those films that when you watch it the second time through it makes a lot more sense but I prefer my films to make sense the first time I watch them! The performances from the actors were superb but unfortunately no matter how good the acting was it can't make up for the problems with the way it was shot.
Sean Penn - Paul Rivers
Benicio Del Toro - Jack Jordan
Naomi Watts - Cristina Peck
Charlotte Gainsbourg - Mary Rivers
Melissa Leo - Marianne Jordan
Clea DuVall - Claudia
Danny Huston - Michael Peck
A movie which I have wanted to watch for quite some time - I came across this in a collection during a quiet night in and decided to watch it as I wanted something thought provoking and more engaging than the other options available.
The movie, upon reflection, demands a lot of attention in order to be able to keep up with the plot. I even double checked the dvd case after ten minutes to see whether Quentin Tarantino had had any input, just because if you think about how Pulp Fiction was made - with a series of events moving backwards and forwards until they eventually connect together at the conclusion of the movie then you're on the right track!
While I was somewhat confused for a while to begin with, and did wonder whether I was losing the plot a little, it did begin to make sense - and the dots began to connect up to a point where I could guess some of the plot.
There are many different characters, but the three central/key characters:
*Sean Penn as Paul Rivers*
Sean's character is suffering from an illness and about to die unless he receives a heart-transplant within the month. He has recently reconciled with his wife who is also desperate to get pregnant with his child while she can, but is finding problems with her fallopian tubes, meaning she cannot become pregnant unless she has an operation. The problem arose due to an abortion which was not carried out correctly during a separation with her husband, and she had not told him - which leads us to believe that while she is desperate to get pregnant with his child and is acting the dutiful wife, things are not as necessarily as great as we are led to believe. During the movie we see how close/apart they really are and how they react after events occur which change their needs/wants in life.
*Benicio Del Toro as Jack Jordan*
Benicio's character is a reformed/born-again Christian who, having previously been in and out of prison, is now trying to help others from finding themselves in his shoes but this is not always conducted in the best of manners. His family life and behaviour towards his wife and two children also leaves much to be admired but he is resilient and committed to his born-again religious beliefs. He also admits his faults and is quite strong in standing through with the support of only his beliefs at times.
*Naomi Watts as Cristina Peck*
Naomi's character I found the hardest to come to grips with just because she seemed to be all over the place initially and I was a little negative towards her when I thought she was hiding an addiction from her family and wasting her life away behind closed doors, then I realised that this could not be the case and by the end had warmed to her completely.
She was slightly reminiscent of her role in 'The Ring' (in my opinion) during a few scenes but this was possibly just because I felt she was excellent in that movie. We are able to completely feel for her character, and having suffered a considerable amount we see how she reacts to her loss in different ways to try and compensate to feel better. We see how her emotional reaction changes as time goes by, and also how her priorities can change with a moments notice.
I really felt as though I could connect with her emotions at one point or another and she did a really good job once I understood her a little more
In felt that this movie was fantastic, but it takes some effort to get to grips with. Having said that, it does make one wonder (at the end if nowhere else) exactly what the weight of 21 grams (allegedly the weight lost by a person immediately after death) is worth in terms of age, feelings, emotions, personality. I don't think the name of the movie really suits what is actually seen because 21 grams has next to nothing to do with the movie until the last few moments when in the conclusion this is mentioned. Other than that, I was wondering how the weight/21grams question/issue would be brought up during the movie.
On the whole I enjoyed the movie, but it was not quite what I was expecting given the title!
I have just watched this film for the first time. I wasn't sure what to expect and must say I was pleasantly surprised. The film is based on three strangers whose lives are brought together by a fatal car accident involving a man and his two daughters. This accident affects them all in some way and lives become entangled and they all end up on a path of destruction. The film is shot out of sequence and flips back and forward to the past, present and future which at times is extremely confusing. You do need to really watch this film and not talk through parts of it as I did to keep up with what is going on. The acting is outstanding and the film is disturbing and realistic.
If you like films like momentum then you will enjoy this film. It is a bit overcomplicated and at times frustrating because you become a bit lost as to what is going on but overall it is a good gritty film.
I had been recommended this film fairly recently by people who know what films I like, it's a drama/thriller starring Sean Penn, Naomi Watts and Benicio Del Toro as 3 members of a community bought together by a horrific car incident resulting in the death of a man and his 2 daughters. The film si shot out of sequence, not quite in the same vein as Memento, almost as confusing but easily distinguishable between the different time frames.
Penns character, paul, is a man dying from a heart condition waiting on a new heart from someone, due to die within the month time seems to be running out. Del Toro's character is an ex-con whom is trying to make peace with the world and God, a recovering drug dealer and alcoholic turns to God to clean his soul. Watts' chracter, a grieving mother who, as a recovered drug user, turns back to the substances in order to make her life seem worth while. The 3 are bought together by fate and, all with family problems of their own, must find a way to deal with not only their problems, but those around them.
The film is very similar to that written and directed by the same people from 2000, Amores perros, where similarly 3 supposedly random people are bought together by a car crash. As such this film is highly unoriginal, but having not seen the earlier film it was very new for me. And those people who recommended it to me should be getting extra presents this year...because the film is stunning work. As a self confiormed Penn fan I was expecting alot from, not only him, but the film itself. Along with Del Toro and Watts the casting is one of pure class and, although not considering Watts as a award winning actress before, after watching this and a few others of hers recently (including the Assassination of Richard Nixon, also starring Penn) she's certainly proven in the past to have all the credentials for parts in big films. Penn is just simply superb, it's got to the point now where I watch films purely because of him and quite rightly feel dissapointed when they don't pay out with quality.
The film was almost 100% recorded using hand held cameras, I didn't pick up on this during filming, somehow, but it must certainly add something to the film. For peoples peace of mind, the film currently has an 8.1 rating on IMDB. The film has a running length of just under 2 hours.
The plot just becomes ever more dramatic as time passes and the non linear format that it's shot in certainly adds to the drama, we follow the lives of 3 people all discovering their faults and problems with life, all having to deal with them and accept their past whilst trying to improve themselves. The ending is very good and ties in perfectly with the themes of the film and the very last speech/monolgue by Penn is a brilliant way to end the film, it's very much a film to make people think and simply think it was stunning, I couldn't wait to watch it again (not that I have yet), I didn't want it to end and quite honestly one of the best films I have ever seen.
I'm not sure if it's coincidence, but Penn is in many of those films...well, 3 of them, not to mention directing one of them.
note: also appears in part on Flixster and The Student Room
Alejandro González Iñárritu's trilogy of thematically-linked films about life, love and death is quite the masterpiece anthology indeed. Beginning with Amores Perros in 2000, Iñárritu weaved a clever, gritty and heartfelt look at life in an empoverished area of Mexico, and since the release of 21 Grams, he has also released the highly acclaimed Oscar nominee Babel, another outing about mixed messages and a failure to communicate. However, his best film remains 21 Grams, a stellar account of loss and how people try to cope with it.
The film revolves around three chief characters, whose stories regularly intersect; the first is of Jack Jordan (Benicio Del Toro, who recieved an Oscar nomination for his performance), a recovering drug addict who is attempting to better himself through his newly-recovered faith. The second person is Paul Rivers (Sean Penn), a terminally ill man who has less than a month to live unless he gets a heart transplant. His wife (Charlotte Gainsborough) is desperate for him to preserve some of his sperm in case she wants another child, but he isn't so sure. He is himself having an affair with Cristina Peck (Naomi Watts), a woman who lost her husband and daughter in a car accident recently (which was caused by Paul), and is also recovering from substance abuse issues.
Of Inarritu's trilogy, this is the true masterpiece of the three, as great as the other two films are; this is a film that melds superb performances with a more focused and resonant plot. It has some spiritual concerns but they never overwhelm the plot. 21 Grams is emotionally charged, and is bolstered by wonderful performances from all involved.
21 Grams is not an easy film nor one of general liking. I have personally developed a certain resistance to it since I first saw it in the theatre. The argument is really worth more for the technique it employs than by the story it tells. Between constant flashbacks and prolepsis connected by the characters' motivations and not by a linear chronological relation, "21 Grams" tells the story of a hit and run, a heart donation, the falling in love of the man receiving the heart by the widow of the donor, of a frustrated revenge and a final redemption.
The moral setting is particularly dear to a certain type of American cinema, as are the depressing scenarios of a hospital waiting room or a decrepit motel. The depression, the drugs, the sex and love are also conjugated in the good American way. What is perhaps new is the development of this tragedy in a climate of constant tension that demands great attention for the viewer to be able connect the several narrative times into a logical sequence and understand the reasons that move the characters to act the way they do and also how much a life weighs.
The film was nominated for Oscars for best actor and actress, but the quality of it must be ascertained by each individual. If this review didn't put you off you should get the DVD and make up your own opinion.
21 grams, it is claimed, is the amount a body loses at the precise moment of death; the weight of a small stack of coins - and, so the theory goes, the soul. In truth, the research that lead to these claims came up with a range of results, with the quantity that forms the title to this film being for some reason seized upon as the definitive figure. In keeping with its title, 21 Grams is a film very much about death - how it affects people, how it changes them for better and worse and what it does to those around them.
The second part of a loose trilogy of films by director Alejandro González Iñárritu, 21 Grams shares much with its siblings, Amores Perros and Babel, not least the patchwork narrative and interwoven timelines. In a very similar way to the first film of the three, this effort revolves around a single incident that impacts upon the lives of three people. We follow the storylines of each of these characters in a jumbled, rearranged narrative that switches between the three strands and moves around in time, showing us how their lives collide, diverge and affect each other.
This is an occasionally confusing style of storytelling, but the three strands are easy enough to separate, and it tends to be clear enough what moment in time you're looking at; where it isn't, this is usually deliberate, and a comprehensible picture soon emerges. At the heart of the story, we follow Paul (Sean Penn), a critically ill man on the waiting list for a heart transplant, Christina (Naomi Watts), a grieving mother and wife and Jack (Benicio Del Toro), a reformed ex-convict with new-found faith. They begin the story as strangers living apparently unconnected lives, but finish it together, in a car racing to the hospital. Neither point is especially crucial to 21 Grams, functioning instead as bookends marking out the boundaries of that period in which we are interested; how the scattered, piecemeal parts of the story come together.
The manner of direction certainly aids this aspect of the story, showing us glimpses and flashes of the tale, but never revealing it in its entirety until the conclusion. Some links and connections are apparent early on in the film, whereas we have to wait for others, or later discover that we've only seen a segment of the true picture. As effectively as this weaves the story however, the narrative really starts to drag towards the finale. Most of the plot is stitched together for us in the first hour and a half of the film, and the remaining portion of the two-hour running time seems to establish very little. There's plenty of extended character development here, and an awful lot of mournful, pensive staring - but the film feels rather heavily weighted down and drags for pace, where earlier sections whipped along at a swift, snappy canter.
In truth, there aren't really enough captivating stories here to make this film excel. Where Amores Perros, utilising an almost identical style, worked because it featured absorbing - and crucially, very different - storylines, 21 Grams is a much more, muted, monochrome affair. Although the three veins of the narrative are clearly separate, they are all marked by the same tone and mood. This kind of storytelling relies on a whole being made up of very distinct pieces, each with a flavour quite of their own, making the feat of bringing them all together all the more striking. This film just doesn't do that strongly enough, a drawback that stops a good film from being a great one.
The performances are certainly strong here - Penn, Watts and Del Toro all fill out their roles and inject them with raw, convincing life. Penn and Del Toro are especially strong screen presences, and put in excellent shifts that give energy to all the film's best moments.
This isn't, then, a weak film by any means - the narrative is skilfully constructed and delivered with style and power. 21 Grams certainly fulfils its objectives of portraying the ways in which death impacts upon life, and as such makes generally satisfying viewing. It's only by comparison with the other films in Iñárritu's trilogy that it pales; both Amores Perros and Babel are superior films, and as there are no chronological links between the three, merit watching first.
21 Grams is a dramatic piece of film making and a very powerful film indeed, it was rather confusing at the start of the film as the story seemed to jump around quite a bit and it reminded me at times of the film Traffic which was about the drug trade, this film has as its core a fatal car crash and the film explores the impact of this event on the main central characters. The story that follows focuses on three main characters who are all linked to the incident, be it the driver, the family of the victim and a third person who actually benefits from the accident.
The film stars Sean Penn who is a fine actor, and also Benicio Del Toro who arguably steals the show at times with the depth and power of his role. As a reformed criminal with a religious faith that is tested to the full following the accident. The third excellent performance is from Maomi Warrs whose depiction of someone sufferring a ddrug enduced mental breakdown is excellent.
There is a gritty edge to this film and it can be a bit oppresive at times especially as there is a faded quality to the film in certain scenes whih ads to the dour feel of the storyline.
This is abou as far away from a feel good movie as you can get, it is a dramatic moving bit of film story telling that is well worth seeing if you are in the right frame of mind and will certainly make you think the next time you get behind the wheel of your car.
21 Grams (2003) directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (also Babel) is, like Babel, a very complex and intense watch that requires patience, concentration and then even more patience.
Did I like this film? I am not sure really. The ending is really, really good but I am not sure that this good 20 minutes justifies the turgid first hour or the level of concentration required. This isn't a film to bang on to un-wind. It follows three distinct threads that slowly (very slowly) come together.
The film features Benicio del Toro (Traffic, Snatch, Sin City) who plays Jack Jordan, a recovering drink and drug addict. Having found God Jack is involved in a road accident and finds himself as a result jailed.
Also starring in the film is Sean Penn (Carlito's Way, Dead Man Walking) who plays Paul. Paul is dying and without a heart transplant does not have much time left. It is Jack's victim from the accident that gives Paul his new heart.
Finally, the third thread, Niomi Watts (the Ring, Mulholand Drive, King Kong) plays another recovering drug addict. She comes in to the film when her husband and children are tragically killed in the accident. This triggers a return to drink and drugs.
Eventually (and it is eventually) the three characters meet and the film pans out.
So why the title? Well - possibly more interesting than the film - but a scientific study found that when we die we weight 21 grams less. So the soul of a person can be said to weigh 21 grams.
Both Watts and del Toro were nominated for Oscars for their performances and to be honest they both do good jobs. However, they cannot save this film from its dull moments. This film could have been over much quicker with much nicer clearer results. In my opinion it tries too hard to be too clever.
Anyone who has seen Babel may recognise this overly long and overly complex web of stories marrying together. The director Inarritu (Mexican) seems to be obsessed with this style. Perhaps for his next movie Biutiful due out later this year we will see something new and less complex.
All this said I do own this on DVD (not Babel) and do like this film. It is a great idea for a plot if lacking in delvery and takes allot of effort to stick with it but the ending is worth the effort.
I'm not one to write negative reviews of things unless I've just been to a restaurant and feel poorly after. This was a film that I had to sit through with the other half and constantly battle with my desire to moan. The film is just a complete mess, the story line is drab, the acting is over dramatic and it's basically a bit of a bang bang gore fest.
The director then goes on to insult our intelligence by dressing the film up as an experimental piece of filming as he chops around with the sequences to leave you a little lost and constantly focused in order to try to figure out just what is going on and where you are in the film. Whether he has done this knowing that his film was dire and wouldn't see the light of day if filmed in a regular format, I don't know. What I do know is that I found this to be one of the most uninteresting films this millennium and will be giving it a wide berth should it be popping up on the television.
I can only think that people enjoying the non-linear arrangements of this film were arty types to whom a little experimentation is more important than a decent story line, script or acting. The acting really is ridiculous, on par with the most dramatic Nollywood film. For those of you who have read this and still want to give it a go then the story is about 3 over the top people, one an ex-con who is dabbling with Christianity, a grieving house wife and a guy who has received a heart transplant from the housewifes husband. Of course the body part heart = love rather than an organ in this film. Bring me the bucket!
Together they are connected and they've all got relatively hickish personalities as well, the series of events could only take place in a gun-wielding America based film! I'm sorry I'm moaning but I hate this film!
This is a must-see movie! This is one of the best movies from Quentin Tarantino. Very inspiring! Lots of thought! You will have so many 'love and respect the life' questions- after you watch the movie.
*** Synopsis ***
The story is about 3 main characters:
1. Paul Rivers (Sean Pean) a college math professor who is a heavy smoker and 'waiting' for his death since his heart failure;
2. Cristina Peck (Naomi Watts) a good and ideal housewife, a beloved mother of two little girls;
3. Jack Jordan (Benicio Del Toro) who is just out from jail and planning to reform his life by working in a church, spreading the gospel and helping kids.
All characters are brought together in one terrible accident - which will change their whole life forever.
Jack accidentally hits Cristina's husband and daughters. Both of the little girls are killed, and the father ends up with dead-brain. She falls in a very deep sadness and she resorts back to drugs. At last, Christina provide donor of her husband's heart for Paul.
After coming out from jail, he just starts to reform his life by working for church, spreading the gospel and helping kids. He just wants to open a clean future for his wife and his two young children. He is poor and the family needs him. But Jack has to face his faith after that 'hit and run' accident. Should he turn himself to jail again?
Paul recovers and hires a private detective to find the donor family. The detective comes with the information about Cristina as well as Jack. What will happen after that? No spoiler alert from me this time. You must see the movie by yourself.
*** What I love from the movie? ***
- The movie is not a linear story telling, but break into pieces, which they are related each others. It's very fun to arrange these puzzles into one beautiful story. Really!
- At the end of the movie, none of them will be the same anymore. They learn a real meaning of life which full of love, faith, guilt and coincidence.
21 Grams tells the story of the convergence between three people, Paul Rivers, Cristina Peck and Jack Jordan. Benicio Del Toro is the imposing former convict who has found god, Jack Jordan. He is struggling to hold down a job and hold his family together in the wake of a life spent as a career criminal. Cristina Peck (Naomi Watts) has moved on from her wayward, drug-dependant past to the perfect, settled family life. She is the dutiful wife and mother of an affluent homestead and Paul Rivers (Sean Penn) is the mortally ill college professor awaiting a heart transplant.
21 Grams is presented out of sequence and this complex narrative style renders the plot largely incomprehensible for the first 45 minutes. The three separate story strands are initially separated but then a devastating accident (which is never actually shown) causes the individual stories to converge. This accident takes the characters to the heights of love, the depths of revenge, and the promise of redemption.
This unfamiliar and complicated way of telling a story is difficult to grasp immediately, and requires a lot of concentration on the part of the audience but if you're in the mood for thinking as you watch, it is an amazing and powerful film and really deserves the praise and awards nominations that have been heaped on it.
They say that we all lose exactly 21 grams in weight at the exact moment of our death.
Cristina Peck is a beautiful young woman who shares a beautiful home with her husband and two young daughters. With no need to work, she passes her time at the local swimming baths where she keeps fit and socialises with her friends. Returning home one day, she receives a telephone message from her husband to say that he is on his way and she laughs to herself as she hears the two girls giggling and playing around in the background. Ten minutes later, the phone rings again.
Jack Jordan is a petty criminal who, having served various jail sentences, is trying to go straight once and for all. He has now found faith and devotes much of his life to the local church, where he tries to encourage impressionable teenagers not to get themselves into trouble. He lives with his wife and two children in a modest house, earning a basic living as a golf caddy. When the manager of the golf club receives complaints about Jordans appearance, he is forced to sack the poor man, but he believes that he may be able to find an alternative position for him through a friend of a friend.
Paul Rivers is a university lecturer who suffers from a deteriorating heart condition and lives with his young, English wife. As his health denigrates, the couple becomes increasingly desperate that they will be unable to find a suitable organ donor. His wife wants nothing more than to have a child and so, without Pauls knowledge, she seeks medical advice. As a result of an earlier abortion, there is some damage to the womans reproductive organs and it is suggested that the couples only hope of a child lies with artificial insemination. Despite his obvious distress that he is unlikely ever to see the child born, Paul signs the consent forms and the couple goes ahead with the procedure.
Three different people living three different lives, but fate conspires to bring them all together. United in tragedy and grief, 21 Grams is the story of how life goes on, whether we like it or not.
In the style of Memento, 21 Grams is as convoluted as it is utterly simple. Filmed in a grainy, grimy style with raw documentary-style footage, it barely feels like a work of fiction and it doesnt really play like one either. The obvious comparison is to the thriller Memento, which is a story about a guy who suffers from memory loss and can only remember things in short chunks. In support of this, the story is told in reverse, literally in chunks or acts that demonstrate how the clues are pieced together. 21 Grams works slightly differently, in that the film basically moves forward, but each of the strands of the story are also cut into chunks and interspersed with one another. So one scene will show an event that happens some time after the next scene, which is set some time before the last scene. If that sounds confusing, then by definition it probably is, but if you actually sit through the film youll find that it does make sense.
Initially, of course, its all utterly dumbfounding. One minute a character is singing in church, in the next scene hes shown lifting his things onto a prison bunk bed. This is, of course, entirely deliberate and is there to make the audience question everything. It is the much more satisfying when one scene starts to explain another, which in turn explains the one before and so on. It certainly isnt everyones cup of tea though. After thirty minutes in the cinema, I noticed several people abandoning hope and leaving the auditorium.
21 Grams is quite a harrowing film, because there are no fluffy edges to the thing. The story is born of tragedy and as the story unfolds we simply see how this affects the three main characters and their families. The film looks at many different things and I suspect that different viewers will take different things away from it. For me, the film was about loss and how people deal with it. Each of the three main characters deals with their loss in a very different way but the film also tries to demonstrate how loss nearly always leads to some gain. I suppose its one of those something good comes of something bad type stories, although it focuses rather more on the something bad than the something good.
The whole style and tone of the film is quite unusual. In many scenes, there is a real absence of colour, as though it has been drained from the world by the very events depicted. Its quite an arty movie, with brief moments of imagery and a general subtlety that sets it out from any mainstream movie. At over two hours in running time, it is also quite heavy going, but despite criticisms from some reviewers, I never felt that the time was wasted or gratuitous. 21 Grams was a careful, considered piece of story telling and as such, it needed to take its time. The 15 certificate reflects some sexual/violent content, although nothing extreme or particularly disturbing. The film was directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, a relative newcomer to the proceedings but a name that I suspect we will be hearing a lot more of.
The film is helped enormously by a strong performance from all the lead cast members. Naomi Watts is absolutely outstanding as Cristina Peck, and engages the audience as soon as she appears. As the troubled ex-con, Benicio Del Toro is characteristically moody and troubled and whilst he does have a huge amount of dialogue in the film he is also highly believable. Sean Penn fares well in this too, with a rather more under-stated portrayal of Paul Rivers that does seem quite so forced as some of his other turns.
21 Grams is an unusual, intense, awkward film. Despite its mainstream success, it is low on effects, action and convention, but this just makes it all the more attractive. If youre tired of big-budget, lacklustre Hollywood blockbusters, then you really ought to try this. And if youre not, well, you really ought to try this anyway.
They say we all lose 21 grams at the exact moment of our death... everyone. The weight of a stack of nickels. The weight of a chocolate bar. The weight of a hummingbird...
The meaning of the title doesnt become clear until late on in this movie but some time before that we are left in no doubt as to the theme that the film is dealing with namely death, loss, grief and ultimate redemption. This makes for harrowing and emotional viewing.
This is the moving story of three very different people who are brought together by one tragic event.
Housewife Cristina Peck (with some skeletons in her closet) lives an idyllic life with her loving husband and two young daughters until her life is destroyed by their untimely deaths at the hands of a hit and run driver.
Ex-bad boy Jack Jordan has finally turned his life around finding new hope in his Christian faith. He is a beacon in the poor community in which he lives and tries to help other young men not to make the same mistakes that led him to a life of crime and prison. However his faith is shaken and his life overturned by a tragic event that leads him to question his deepest beliefs.
Paul Rivers is a university mathematics lecturer who is dying of heart disease has recently got back together with his wife she hopes by artificial insemination to have his child after his probable early death.
Each is deeply affected by tragedy and through a series of coincidental event they are brought together as each impacts greatly on the life of the others. It is difficult to delve further in to the plot without giving too much away and since the film relies heavily on the events unfolding gradually with many twist on the way.
The film is directed by Mexican Alejandro González Iñárritu who came to prominence with Amores Perros (2000) and indeed there are similarities between the two films in the story as well as the style and it is no surprise to find that fellow Mexican Guillermo Arriaga penned both screenplays.
The three stories which eventually merge are told by short (sometimes less than a minute long) series of scenes but confusingly not chronologically. This allows the director to examine the events from the viewpoint of each main character but rather like another challenging film Memento(2000) or even one of Naomi Watts previous outings Mulholland Drive (2001), it requires some thinking on the part of the viewer to piece together the disparate bits of the puzzle in order to work out the flow of the narrative.
This was confusing to begin with and I found myself asking plenty of questions as the story and characters changed to a fro from life before and after the pivotal event. However it is a tribute to the skill of the director and writer that once you got over the initial awkwardness of not being able to follow the story in a traditional way you were completely swept along with the tense events unfolding. In the end the fracturing of the plot in this way allowed the events to make more impact as the truth behind the tragic lives of the three people became clearer. In fact it could be argued that the story itself told in a traditional timeline would not come across as well or be as compelling. The splintered narrative is accompanied by grainy, intimate and uncompromising visuals, which really helps to enforce the fallibility and humanity of the characters.
This is not a comedy and I think even the most macho viewer will be hard pushed to hold back a few tears as you really engage in the emotional turmoil that Rivers, Jordan but especially Cristina Peck are put through. Having said this it never descends to mawkish sentimentality. The characters feel real and even in their darkest moments their flaws show through so that they dont automatically elicit the viewers sympathy. These we are made to believe are real people dealing with enormously stressful situations. They dont react in a preconceived ways that we are accustomed to in the movies their reactions are extreme and brutal but always human. There are no good guys or bad guys and a moral ambivalence towards their plight for the most part is hard to avoid.
The acting is universally superb and both Naomi Watts as Peck (Best Actress in a Leading Role) who is quickly becoming one of the classiest actresses in Hollywood and the dark brooding Benicio Del Toro as Jackson (Best Actor in a Supporting Role) fully deserve their Oscar nominations. Sean Penn as Rivers, an actor who Ive reluctantly in many ways grown to like over the years puts in another excellent performance and was possibly unlucky to miss out on yet another nomination. The backing cast made up of Melissa Leo as Jordans wife and Charlotte Gainsbourg (daughter of Serge) as Rivers wife also put in great performances, especially impressive is Leo as the long suffering wife who is intent on keeping her family together.
The film examines the fragility of human existence and the interconnectivity of people even if they are as is the case here from different social backgrounds. While many might think that 21 grams is another Amores Perros for an American audience it would be unfair to think of it in this way. While the basic premise of the two stories are obviously related 21 grams is a more mature and sensitive film. The non linear set up and lack of chronology could be considered as nothing more than a gimmick but again this comment would be unfair since even though the puzzle is engaging it still doesnt get in the way of the drama and in fact enhances the story which. The film is finally most impressive for the quality of the acting.
CAST AND TECHNICAL BITS
Sean Penn .... Paul Rivers
Naomi Watts .... Cristina Peck
Benicio Del Toro .... Jack Jordan
Charlotte Gainsbourg .... Mary Rivers
Melissa Leo .... Marianne Jordan
Eddie Marsan .... Reverend John
The film is 124min in length and is rated 18 in part for a couple of sex scenes, violence and drug use but I would have though the nature of the themes alone would preclude a younger audience.
It is available on DVD from Play.com for £5.99 delivered at the time of writing this review. An absolute bargain and highly recommended!
© Mauri 2006
They say that patience is a virtue and after watching this film I have to agree. Ten minutes in and I was ready to switch off but boy am I glad that I stayed with it.
For some reason I had always assumed that it was a film about drugs, maybe that was because of the title, to me 21 grams sounded like a drug reference, or maybe it was because of the trailer which showed drug taking and some washed out wasted characters. Even ten minutes in I still thought this was the case however this was because it reminded me of the film Traffic which centered on the drugs industry and the impact that it had on a disparate group of people.
This is also quite a difficult film to review because of the way the story is told and so as not to risk giving too much away I will be brief. Basically this film examines the impact a fatal car accident has on the lives of three people. In that way there is a similarity between it and Traffic in that Traffic used three story lines to show the devastation drugs can have not just on the users but their wider families and with 21 grams the film explores the devastation caused by a road accident not just on the victims but also on their families. It focuses on the family members left behind but also the impact on the driver who was at fault and the innocent members of his family. In addition an extra twist is introduced with a third party whose life is also affected by the fall out from the accident initially in a positive way but the psychological effects that follow have far reaching consequences.
I have been deliberately vague as possible so as not to spoil your enjoyment of this film. This is partly due to the style in which the story is told as it jumps around in time showing short scenes involving all the main characters and the challenge comes in unraveling the sequence in which these happen so that you the viewer can understand the story. Initially this style was what prompted me to consider switching off, it was all so confusing (and I was very tired) and too much effort that I nearly gave in. What in effect you are getting is the start middle and finish all squashed into a ten minute opening, in these ten minutes you get to witness nudity and drug taking as well as a man lying in hospital with his thoughts being narrated to you.
This is a bleak film which is worth watching for the strength of the performances in it. It is these that carry the film, here are no special effects, car chases or witty buddy scenes to lighten the mood. It is gritty and dark and centers on the emotions of the characters and the depth that the actors bring to their roles. It received two academy award nominations and five Baftas and having seen it I can understand why. Sean Penn puts in a strong performance which demonstrates just what a fine actor that he is, however for me it is Benicio Del Toro who steals the show with his portrayal of the reformed former convict who has put his faith in God only to have these beliefs shattered as he descends into a spiral of remorse which threatens to destroy his marriage to the excellent Melissa Leo. The third character affected directly by the accident is played by Naomi Watts in a powerful role she delivers an excellent performance as she descends into a life of drug use and emotional torment driven by the need for revenge.
There is a depressing air to the scenes with some grim backdrops used to set the mood and there is an excellent use of light by the director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu to establish the mood of the film. In many of the scenes the colour appears to have been washed out to further enhance the sense of emotional turmoil that the characters are experiencing so the extent that everything else is a backdrop to the strength of performance in front of camera.
This is definitely a film worth seeing, hard hitting and extremely well acted it made a pleasant change from some of the recent offerings I have sat through. It is thought provoking and at times hard work but in the end I felt rewarded to sit through it. You just might want to consider having a half hour of Dads Army planned at the end just to lighten the mood.
There are scenes of nudity and drug taking including one scene that the more squeamish amongst you (that includes me) might not want to watch. As a final endorsement this film did bring tears to my eyes, all say ahh.
The DVD of this film is available at Amazon for £5.97 new or from £2 in the new and used section.
Film only review and the product is definately recommended.
Thanks for reading and rating my review.