21 Grams (tbc)

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The ViewLondon Review

Review byMatthew Turner03/11/2003

Five out of Five stars
Running time: 125 mins

Alejandro Inarritu’s eagerly-awaited follow-up to Amores Perros – a moving, gripping study of guilt, revenge, grief and redemption, with astonishing performances from its three leads.

Mexican director Alejandro Inarritu made a huge impact with his stunning debut Amores Perros a couple of years ago and 21 Grams is his eagerly-awaited second feature. It’s written by Amores Perros screenwriter Guillermo Amaga and is shot in English, with terrific performances from its cast.

Using a brilliant, highly complex structure, it’s bleak, uncompromising and immensely powerful – as such it’s one of the best films of the year.

Guess How Much Your Soul Weighs…

The film takes its title from the amount of weight we are said to lose at the time of death – believed by some people to be a consequence of the soul leaving the body.

The plot centres on three characters: Naomi Watts as a bereaved mother tortured by grief and battling a drug addiction; Sean Penn as a maths professor with a terminal heart condition; and Benicio Del Toro as an ex-con with a wife and family, who has found God and is in search of redemption. The lives of the three characters are linked by a tragic accident at the heart of the film, an accident which is also the key to understanding the complex structure of the film.

Effectively, it’s as if the impact of the accident itself has completely splintered the narrative around it, so that scenes occur in a seemingly random order and the film trusts the intelligence of the audience to piece together the story.

It’s a bold, challenging move that yields impressive results – for example, during the first part of the film it’s genuinely impossible to tell the order of Sean Penn’s character’s story (though the state of his facial hair provides important clues).

Extraordinary Performances

The acting is extraordinary, with all three leads giving career-best performances. Naomi Watts, in particular, gives an emotionally raw, gut-wrenching performance that is almost painful to watch and shows that she is an actress to be reckoned with – to say that she deserves an Oscar really doesn’t do her justice.

Del Toro is also extremely impressive – especially in the latter half of the film. Penn has a trickier role because his character is largely unsympathetic at first, but he does an amazing job. There’s also good support from Charlotte Gainsbourg as Penn’s partner and from Melissa Leo as Del Toro’s wife, as well as, in smaller roles, Clea DuVall and Danny Huston (Ivan’s xtc).

To sum up, 21 Grams is powerful, intelligent and emotionally devastating. It’s similar to films such as Requiem for a Dream, in that it will put you through the emotional wringer and isn’t exactly what you’d call a ‘feel-good’ movie, but is nonetheless unmissable. Highly recommended.

Film Trailer

21 Grams (tbc)
21 Grams has been reviewed by 1 users
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Content updated: 26/04/2019 13:33

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