With quite a lot of sobbing and not so many tits, Alejandro González Iñárritu’s 21 Grams stands confidently in contention for several awards handed out to savagely depressing works.
Paul (Sean Penn), a once hard-living terminal, anxiously awaits the Reaper’s call. The wise old leper that he is, Paul spends his days embalmed in cigarette smoke and self-loating; it gets so his whining and gun-waving dissipates to a dull roar. His wife Mary, hiding a mysterious abortion which demo’ed her inner-workings, is eagerly cast off like a crazy, clamouring buoy crusading for Paul’s frozen spooge.
Jack (Benicio del Toro) is a healer of souls - a preacher and a proud figure in his community - puttering here and there in a police-auctioned pick-up clad in scriptural slogans. Like any decent minister, Jack roughs young men around for the betterment of humankind, trying his best not to look like an ex-con; this façade becomes shaky when he ploughs two young girls and their father into pulp in broad daylight.
The girls’ mother Cristina (Naomi Watts) is thrown into this swamp of a cocktail – herself adding several hallucinogens and stimulants to the mix – when she signs her mangled husband’s heart away to Paul. Having been spiritually rejuvinated and caring little about his body’s violent rejecting of the donated heart, Paul packs up his new lease on life and shoves it in his saviour’s widow.
Inevitably, the film circles like a vulture overlooking scenes of these people killing, saving and screwing each other until they are all dead or left with insurmountable guilt. 21 Grams gives us a very stiff drink with no kind of fuzzy warmth on its way down nor on its way back up: ‘the way of things’ á la mode – what a fucking downer.
Stiff Score: 8.5/10
Screenshot courtesy of Focus Films - 2003.