21 Grams


Directed by: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
Written by:Guillermo Arriaga
Starring: Sean Penn, Naomi Watts, Benecio Del Toro, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Clea DuVall, Melissa Leo
Released: January 22, 2004
Grade: A

To best describe 21 Grams I need to steal a quote from the film’s Mexican director, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Amores Perros) – “I don’t think it’s a dark story.  It’s about a chain of losses, and how we confront those losses and move on with our lives.  In the end it’s about hope.”

Paul Rivers (Penn) now has little more than a month to live and is still waiting for a donor heart which can save his life.  He has no children but his wife, Mary (Gainsbourg), is determined to become pregnant so a little piece of Paul can carry on if he should die.  Unfortunately, her fallopian tubes are damaged and she herself will need an operation if there’s to be even a slim chance.  Time looks set to beat them both.

Jack Jordan (Del Toro) has been in and out of jail most of his life but through a friend has “found God”.  He devoutly prays each day and now lives his life through the bible.  Through his local church he has been trying to help younger people in trouble get their own lives back on track as he as done.  Jack makes ends meet working as caddy at a nearby golf club and this provides just enough for himself, wife Mary (Gainsbourg) and their two children.

Christina Peck (Watts) has two daughters and lives happily at home with her husband Michael.  Long ago, Christina was a heavy drug user but following the birth of her children she changed her ways and has flown straight ever since.  She doesn’t work and performs the house duties at home whilst getting out from time-to-time to play squash and swim at the public pool.

Three separate people with three different lives who will come together under a series of events.  Are these events predetermined?  Were they destiny?  This is something that screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga touches on and he leaves it up to the audience to draw their own conclusions.  Life has a funny way of working out sometimes.

When watching 21 Grams, you need to be prepared for an unconventional viewing experience.  Generally, the scenes are in order and things are easy to understand but mixed throughout the film are glimpses from the past and glimpses into the future.  We are given intriguing hints as to what will happen to these characters but you won’t be quite sure until the very end.  I loved this bold technique.  You watch the events unfold in a different light because in the back of your mind you sense what will happen.

Sean Penn, Benecio Del Toro and Australian Naomi Watts give three blisteringly passionate performances which has already seen them honoured and may ultimately find them a place in the audience at this year’s Oscars.  They make their characters so real.  There’s nothing black and white about them.  There each have separate qualities that make them both likable and unlikable and these qualities reveal themselves at pivotal moments.

21 Grams is a wonderfully audacious production.  A gripping story that should leave you thinking long after leaving the theatre.