Star Rating:

21 Grams

Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu

Actors: Melissa Leo, Benicio Del Toro, Sean Penn

Release Date: Tuesday 2nd March 2004

Genre(s): Drama

Running time: 125 minutes

A couple of years ago, Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu made an excellent film about destiny called Amores Perros, which interlinked three stories around an accident. He repeats that trick with his English language debut, the superb 21 Grams, a film skewered in its narrative, but one that pushes its cast towards some of their most brilliant work. In this gripping but unusually structured film, Penn plays a mathematician who is slowly dying from heart disease and desperately requires a transplant.

His missus (Charlotte Gainsbourg) wants to have his child as soon as possible, if only to have a physical reminder of her husband. Cristina Peck (Naomi Watts) is a former party animal who's settled into a life of domestic bliss until a freak accident takes everything she treasures away. Jack Jordan (Del Toro, in another devastating performance) is an ex-con determined to go straight and find Jesus. Yet his loss of faith suffers a quite spectacular denouement, shocking in its execution.

When a film is as narratively and morally daring as 21 Grams, it justifies a viewing. When it contains performances as extraordinary as those contained here, it becomes a necessity. Indeed, the title of the picture refers to the supposed mass of a human soul, something that is always apparent in this affecting piece of cinema. The director expects his audience to work with him, never laying anything too simply or easily defined, preferring to deal with a blurry ambiguity that he documents. The result is a film which sometimes moves less gracefully than it should, but it is a remarkably affecting piece of work, which stays with you for days. It's only been a week, and I'm itching to see this one again.