Friday, 9 April 2010

'If someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn your other to him also. '

21 Grams
Dir. Alejandro González Iñárritu
(Focus Features 2003)

21 Grams...It's all about the interconnectedness of the world. A butterfly flaps it's wings in Hong Kong and I feel that breeze in London. Alejandro González Iñárritu's take on a car crash is ambitious, as we see how this event effects the lives of three characters. Being Alejandro, a linear narrative is not suffice to tell this tragedy, all the scenes in the story get put in the washing machine, jumbled around and taken out, therefore we watch events in a non-linear order, which though undoubtedly premeditated feels more misconstrued than anything else. It's much like downloading a file from a bit torrent client, - digesting lots of little files from many sources and only getting the complete product, when the download is completed. In 21 Grams, there are lots of little scenes with the principal characters, then come the end, we've gone full circle, and all the scenes are given a context in this suburban tragedy.

Alejandro's approach to telling this story, papers over the cracks of this rather simplified tale. I didn't care for two of the principal characters, Naomi Watts screeches and snorts a lot powder after the horrific loss of her family and Penn plays a horribly creepy man who after a heart transplant wants to track down his donor. With Watt's character – there is not enough detail, in every scene she is either hitting the bottle, or clutching one of her child's toys in the bedroom. Perhaps Alejandro's approach to the narrative forced him to make every scene service the story, every scene was symbolic of Naomi's demise and it feels one-dimensional. I didn't like the doctors in the film, all were incredibly aggressive and candid with their patient advice, the gynaecologist at the beginning didn't seem like a very sensitive gynaecologist- aren't they meant to be? Bencio del Toro is brilliant as Jack Jordon, a born again ex – con. A scene when he arrives back to tell his girlfriend that he has just run over Watt's family is harrowing and really exemplifies this man's acting talents. Again there is more brilliance at the dinner table when his son hits his daughter, and Bencio gives his children a lesson in family values. The non-liner story telling allows there to be a lot inserts and pondering wide shots as we jump from one location to the next, and the pace feels laboured. Come the end of the film, I did not care what happened to Sean Penn or Watts and Penn's epilogue is tedious. Watch it for Bencio's performance and Bencio alone.

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