Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Alejandro González Iñárritu|
|Produced by||Alejandro González Iñárritu
|Written by||Guillermo Arriaga|
Benicio del Toro
|Music by||Gustavo Santaolalla|
|Editing by||Stephen Mirrione|
|Studio||This is that|
|Distributed by||Focus Features|
|Running time||124 minutes|
Like Arriaga's and González Iñárritu's previous film, Amores perros (2000), 21 Grams interweaves several plot lines, around the consequences of a tragic automobile accident. Penn plays a critically ill academic mathematician, Watts plays a grief-stricken mother, and del Toro plays a born-again Christian ex-convict whose faith is sorely tested in the aftermath of the accident.
21 Grams is presented in a non-linear arrangement where the lives of the characters are depicted before and after the accident. The three main characters each have 'past', 'present', and 'future' story threads, which are shown as non-linear fragments that punctuate elements of the overall story, all imminently coming toward each other and coalescing as the story progresses.
The title refers to a belief propagated by the early 20th century research of physician Dr. Duncan MacDougall which attempted to show scientific proof of the existence of the immortal human soul by recording a small loss of body weight (representing the departure of the soul) immediately following death. The research by MacDougall attempted to follow the scientific method and showed some variance in results (21 grams is the reported weight loss from the death of the first patient). His final report has not been recognized by the scientific community, neither at the time nor since. The film presents MacDougall's findings as accepted scientific fact as a form of dramatic license.
The story is told in a non-linear manner. The following is a linear, chronological summary of the plot:
Jack Jordan (Benicio del Toro) is a former convict who is using his new-found religious faith to recover from drug addiction and alcoholism. Paul Rivers (Sean Penn) is a mathematics professor with a fatal heart condition. Unless he receives a new heart from an organ donor, he will not live longer than one month. Paul's wife wants him to donate his sperm so she can have his baby even if he dies. The two are civil to one another, yet distant. Cristina Peck (Naomi Watts) is also a recovering drug addict and now lives a normal suburban life with a supportive husband and two children. She is a loving mother and active swimmer who has left her days of drugs and booze behind. These three separate stories/characters become tied together one evening when Jack kills Cristina's husband and children in a hit-and-run accident. Her husband's heart is donated to Paul, who begins his recovery.
Cristina is devastated by the loss and returns to drugs and alcohol. Paul is eager to begin normal life again, but he hesitantly agrees to his wife's idea of surgery and artificial insemination as a last-ditch effort to get pregnant. During consultations with a doctor before the surgery, Paul learns that his wife had undergone an abortion after they had separated in the past. Angered, Paul ends the relationship. He becomes very inquisitive about whose heart he has. He learns from a private detective that the heart belonged to Cristina's husband and begins to follow the widowed Cristina around town.
Jack is stricken with guilt following the accident. Despite his wife's protests to keep quiet and conceal his guilt, Jack tells her that his "duty is to God" and turns himself in. While incarcerated, he claims that God had betrayed him, loses his will to live and tries unsuccessfully to commit suicide. He is released after Cristina declines to press charges, as she realizes that putting Jack in prison will not bring her family back. When Jack is released, he is unable to reincorporate himself into normal family life, and instead leaves home to live as a transient, working a job of manual labor.
Paul finds an opportunity to meet Cristina and eventually reveals how the two of them are connected. Desperately needing one another, they begin to develop a relationship. Though Paul has a new heart, his body is rejecting the transplant and his outlook is grim. As Cristina begins to dwell more on her changed life and the death of her girls, she continually focuses on a desire to exact revenge on Jack. She goads Paul into agreeing to murder him.
Paul meets with the private detective who originally found Cristina for him. Paul also purchases a gun from him and learns that Jack is living in a motel. Paul and Cristina check into the motel where Jack is also staying. When Jack is walking alone, Paul grabs him and leads him out into a clearing at gunpoint with the intention of killing him. Paul is unable to kill Jack, who himself is confused, shaking and pleading during the event. Paul tells Jack to "just disappear" then returns to the motel, lying to Cristina about Jack's death. Later that night, while they are sleeping, Paul and Cristina are awakened by a noise outside their door. It's Jack, who, still consumed by guilt and inner torment, orders Paul to kill him and end his misery. There is a struggle, and Cristina blind-sides Jack and begins to beat him with a wooden lamp. Paul has a heart attack and shoots himself to avoid dying from asphyxia.
Jack and Cristina rush Paul to the hospital. Jack tells the police that he was the one who shot Paul, but is released when his story is unable to be confirmed. Paul died and the conflict between Cristina and Jack remains unresolved (they meet in the waiting room after Paul's death. If they converse, it is not shown). Cristina learns in the hospital that she is pregnant. After Paul's death, Cristina is seen tentatively preparing for the new child in one of her daughters' bedroom which she was previously unable to enter since her daughters' death, and Jack is shown returning to his family.
- Sean Penn as Paul Rivers
- Naomi Watts as Cristina Peck
- Danny Huston as Michael
- Benicio del Toro as Jack Jordan
- Charlotte Gainsbourg as Mary Rivers
- John Rubinstein as Gynecologist
- Clea DuVall as Claudia
- Eddie Marsan as Reverend John
- Melissa Leo as Marianne Jordan
- Marc Thomas Musso as Freddy
- Paul Calderon as Brown
- Denis O'Hare as Dr. Rothberg
- Kevin Chapman as Alan
- Lew Temple as County Sheriff
- Carly Nahon as Cathy
|This section requires expansion. (January 2011)|
The film was received with much acclaim. 81% of all critics gave the film positive reviews per Rotten Tomatoes. Roger Ebert, for example, questioned the use of non-linear narrative, but praised the acting and said of the film overall: "It grips us, moves us, astonishes us." Elvis Mitchell also praised the acting and called the film "an extraordinarily satisfying vision" that "may well be the crowning work of this year."
The film was also a success with audiences, garnering a worldwide gross of approximately $60 million after being made for an estimated $20 million.
See also 
- Hyperlink cinema – the film style of using multiple inter-connected story lines.
- 21 Grams Movie Reviews, Pictures. Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved on 2010-12-17.
- 21 Grams :: rogerebert.com :: Reviews. Rogerebert.suntimes.com. Retrieved on 2010-12-17.
- Movie Review 21 Grams (2003), New York Times, October 18, 2003
- 21 Grams (2003) – Box Office Mojo. Admin.boxofficemojo.com. Retrieved on 2010-12-17.
- "FFCC Award Winners". Florida Film Critics. Retrieved 2011-06-04.
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: 21 Grams|
- Official website
- 21 grams at Rotten Tomatoes
- 21 Grams at the Internet Movie Database
- Article on the cinematography of 21 Grams from American Cinematographer
- The science behind 21 Grams