21 Grams (2003) – Alejandro G. Inarritu

The next title on the What Else to Watch list in DK Canada’s The Movie Book, following my screening of The Sweet Hereafter is 21 Grams, which has a strong emotional punch to its unique storytelling narrative.

Filled with flash forwards and flashbacks, the tale reveals terrible emotional moments throughout, and then lets us build up the context around it as we see the story get filled out.

Featuring Sean Penn, Naomi Watts and Benecio Del Toro the story is as powerful as it is unique. As we slide back and forth through the narrative, we learn relationships, history and context, and while we are delivered countless emotional gut punches the context, when it’s learned doubles it.

Penn is Paul, an ill mathematician, Del Toro is Jack a born again ex-con, and Watts plays Cristina a grieving mother who has suffered an unspeakable tragedy. And it is this tragedy that connects all the characters as we travel with the characters.

Each of the cast turn in a powerful performance, as the characters know exactly where they are in their arcs, even as the story slides back and forth.


Having said that, this is not light, entertaining fare. The subject matter is bold, dark, and puts the viewer through the emotional wringer. In fact, I love how the story plays out, letting you think one thing as it plays out, but when the true moment is revealed, a well-crafted story makes things that much stronger.

There’s a nice style to the film, floating camera work that feels almost like a documentary, cinema verite. In fact the entire production value works to ground everything in a reality. It looks like natural lighting, and minimal makeup is used to keep everything in the now, and relatable.

The film is fantastically crafted, doling out its narrative as it sees fit, and requiring the audience to pay attention to each and every scene, allowing us to become emotionally attached to them, as we accompany them.

All three of the leads bring their A game and there are layers to each of their performances, and I am hear put to figure whose performance I love best. Each of them show a character that is affected uniquely by the tragedy they suffer from.

I don’t want to go into lots of details, in fact I’ve hemmed and hawed about what to put in this write-up as I didn’t want to give anything away, but I did want to talk about the narrative, context and emotion.

It’s a gut-wrenching watch, and is well worth it.

Or if that’s not your style, pick up a copy of DK Books’ The Movie Book and find a new to you classic to watch tonight.




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