The film is an older film released in 2004 from Focus Features. It runs about two hours and five minutes. Mexican film director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, most notably directing last year’s Oscar-winning film “Birdman” with Michael Keaton, takes Guillermo Arriaga’s script and tells a beautiful story with heart and style. Inarritu does so with flashbacks weaving the characters’ lives together in a climactic end. You can view the trailer below.
The story involves Paul Rivers (Sean Penn), who is in need of a new heart, his wife Mary Rivers (Charlotte Gainsbourg), Cristina Peck (Naomi Watts), a former drug addict and housewife, Jack Jordan (Benicio Del Toro), an ex-con who has found Jesus, and Marianne Jordan (Melissa Leo), Jack’s wife.
After a tragic accident, these lives become intertwined, building up to the climax and tells each character’s story through unique non-linear storytelling. Much like “Memento” before, flashbacks and flash forwards tell the story, which honestly, I thought was a little distracting at first but I quickly bought into the convention and let the characters and story unfold before me.
The title of the film comes from a line from Paul as he says, “They say we lose 21 grams at the exact moment of death … How much do we gain?”
I believe that line sums up the context of the film as the characters struggle with their own lives and come to terms with the life changing moment that affects all of them in the film. The story develops to hint upon what we, as people, do in our own life that can impact others. Inarritu stated that he believes all people are connected in some way. He goes on to say how one person’s actions affect another and how that person’s actions affect another and so on and so on. It is a little mind boggling to think that we are connected in some way. That our actions seem to and can have a ripple effect upon the world. I guess it can happen. And it certainly happens in this film.
Penn gives a remarkable performance as in “I Am Sam” and “Mystic River.” Through the story, he became a lost soul who was desperately trying to hang on but thought there was only one way out. Watts was believable as a former drug addict dealing with her past demons and coming to terms with her family’s death. Del Toro gives a gripping performance as a born-again Christian who is trying to find his way before the tragic event that alters the characters’ lives. Gainsbourg and Leo give heartfelt performances, as Paul and Jack’s wives respectively, and show how their lives are together changed over the course of events in the story.
It is a classic piece of storytelling that brings together the emotional events in the story in a way that a traditional linear structure would not. It allows the viewer to follow the characters on the emotional ride throughout the developing story and by the end the audience can be in the moment with the characters.
The film was nominated through several American and International organizations and took home 34 awards.