January 17, 2004

21 Grams

The more I like a film, the less I want to say about it other than that I loved it. It's easier to criticize a poor film than it is to say something intelligent about a film that grabs your attention and emotions. But I think a lot of people who would enjoy this film might not go to see it, and so I feel I have to say something.

21 Grams is the new film by director Alejandro González Iñárritu. His last film Amores perros made enough of an impression on me that I felt I had to hop in the car on a Friday night, leave my family alone, brave the single-digit weather and sit with a bunch of strangers in sofas at the Cable Care Cinema. It was well worth it.

21 Grams is a tightly woven story about how events can cause unrelated lives to become tightly involved, for good or ill. The consequences of our actions mark the intersections of our lives, and those intersections will always exist -- their repercussions will never disappear.

The gimmick of this film is that, like a number of other films, the story is not told in order. In this case, we're shown what is coming - some terrible event that links the lives of our three central characters. But, as in all our lives life, many things about this event are a mystery. As the story unfolds, clues of the mystery fit together.

Can life be solved in the same way a mystery is solved? When bad things happen to people, their lives are shattered much like the pieces of this film. Nothing seems in the right order. Some things don't even make sense without the context of our previous existence. We feel that the pieces will never fit together. Something has to happen before you know the pieces are all there, before you resolve to put them back together for yourself.

If you enjoy watching actors ply their trade, you'll see some of the best performances of the year here. Sean Penn, to be sure deserves kudos for his performance. I found his Mystic River to have more of an impact on me. But in all the principal parts I don't think I detected a missed step. Del Toro brings what I think is a very difficult character to life. But Naomi Watts especially shines in her role which should be extremely difficult to watch, but is, instead, impossible not to. Her control of rapidly changing emotions is spellbinding.

I'm at an all-too-familiar loss for words, at this point. 21 Grams is a film about the twists of emotion, and the twists of character that grip people under extreme personal circumstances. It is specifically about character, not events themselves. People will invariably compare this to the director's earlier film Amores perros, as they both involve some accidental tragedy. However, the characters here are the focus, not the events.

I give 21 Grams my highest recommendation. If you've seen it already and enjoyed it, Amores perros is definitely worthy of a rental.

Posted by James at January 17, 2004 2:40 AM
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