The second outing for director Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu and writer Guillermo Arriago (the team behind the Mexican film Amores Perros) is a blistering tale exploring love, death, revenge, redemption and consequence. 21 Grams is their first foray into English language moviemaking and it shares similar themes and style to their debut. Like Amores Perros, 21 Grams intertwines three stories of people from very different social and economic backgrounds all linked by a tragic incident.Naomi Watts stars as Christina, a happily married woman who has given up her past love of alcohol and drugs for a suburban lifestyle raising two children. Sean Penn plays the bedridden Paul Rivers who is suffering from heart disease whilst his relationship with his wife is deteriorating as quickly as his health. Paul is dying and the only thing that will save him is a heart transplant. Meanwhile his wife is pressuring him into donating sperm so she can be impregnated with his child. Then there is Jack Jordan played by Benicio Del Toro who has been in and out of prison since he was a teenager. Jack has straightened out, found Jesus as well as employment. He is desperate to make ends meet in order to redeem himself and raise his struggling family.
21 Grams is edited in a completely non-linear fashion which demands complete concentration from its audience. It rapidly moves between past, present and future which does take a little getting used to but it all falls into place by the end of the film. It is shot in a grainy, hand held fashion that captures the urgency of each scene as each of the characters lives spiral out of control.
Inarritu has said that he chose to shoot in English rather than his native tongue as it gave him the opportunity to work with some of the best actors in the world - something that he has definitely achieved with his choice of Watts, Penn and Del Toro. Each of the leads put in scorching performances demanding the utmost attention from the audience for the film’s entirety. Watts and Del Toro put in their best efforts to date and after his outstanding role in Mystic River; Penn once again demonstrates that he is an actor at the top of his game.21 Grams is by no means an easy view. It is unconventional in style and the story is quite harrowing but it is also utterly compelling and profound. 21 Grams is a movie that makes an audience think. It leaves one questioning the weight of their own existence and the impact it has on those around them. It also shows how one quick incident can change people’s lives forever. This is a film that does not play by Hollywood rules and is one of the best movies released this year – essential viewing.