A retired legal counselor writes a novel hoping to find closure for one of his past unresolved homicide cases and for his unreciprocated love with his superior - both of which still haunt him decades later.
Juan José Campanella
Three interconnected stories about the different strata of life in Mexico City all resolve with a fatal car accident. Octavio is trying to raise enough money to run away with his sister-in-law, and decides to enter his dog Cofi into the world of dogfighting. After a dogfight goes bad, Octavio flees in his car, running a red light and causing the accident. Daniel and Valeria's new-found bliss is prematurely ended when she loses her leg in the accident. El Chivo is a homeless man who cares for stray dogs and is there to witness the collision. Written by
El Chivo sarcastically congratulates Luis Miranda Solares for his imagination comparing him with a Publicist which is the occupation of the Director Alejandro González Iñárritu. See more »
When Daniel is sitting in his office and phones his wife Julieta before hanging up with out saying anything, his cigarette is down to the butt and close to his fingers before his dials the number, but after he has hung up the cigarette seems to have grown a few inches. See more »
As a director's film it is astounding but as a narrative it has it's highs and lows
A young man gets into the world of illegal dog fighting in order to get enough money together to be able to run away with his brother's wife, but in the meantime he starts tension with another dog owner. A beautiful young model signs a lucrative contract with a perfume company and moves into her new flat with her lover only for her tragedy to strike and her dog to go missing. Finally an ex-convict and guerrilla mourns the wife he left decades ago and longs to meet the daughter who thinks he is dead but is also contracted to kill a businessman. These three lives come together in a car crash that acts as a catalyst in changing their lives.
After seeing 21 Grams I knew that I had to get round to seeing this film. With it's appearance on TV (BBC4 showing itself to really be a 'place to think' and a wonderful channel to have) I took the opportunity to watch it, expecting a film that would match the good things I had heard about it. >From the opening car chase that results in the crash that the film spirals outwards from like debris, through for most of the first hour, I was hooked the pace was great and the story gripping. It was violent, exciting and yet had a human element to it as well. However the second story knocked the wind out of it for a moment, and seemed to lack the emotion of the first. It was based around an urban myth of sorts and wasn't as good even if it did pick up towards the end.
The third story saw it return to a much more involving story of pain and the grinding out of life (as in 'getting by'). Maybe it was the rich lifestyles of the characters in story two that stopped me caring as much I don't know but I know that the contrast between one & two made it more obvious how much the pace had dropped especially when we are left wanted to know what happened to the characters we had spent an hour getting to care about. Anyway, the third story is a satisfying ending to the film and drew me back in emotionally where the second story had cut me off by it's abrupt start. Story two finishes before story three begins, and therefore it was easier to move on.
I think the problem with this film for me was not the fact that three stories were intermingled but that I didn't think they were actually mixed well the way the film moves away from characters before concluding their section (eg Octavia), the way the stories are actually quite separate from one another, these things and other I felt weakened the films although each story was strong on it's own I just felt that story 2 was such a change to the film that it hurt it.
However, as a film debut this is an amazing piece of work and is relentlessly impressive. From the opening car chase to the dog fights to the silent pain of the model looking out where her image once hung in all these different moments I thought he did a great job and visually the film was never dull once no matter if it was set in a penthouse flat or a basement of an old building with the blood of dead dogs. And while we're on the subject, at the time of release I heard critics say they walked out of the film, refusing to watch cruelty to animals even being simulated. I can see their point but also think that they missed the fact that the animals in the film are mostly loved (even if they mostly die!) however it is love and compassion for other humans that the film shows the characters having difficulty with, and this is where the emotional impact of the film is not in simulated dogfights, albeit very well simulated dogfights that are hard to hear even if they are mostly unseen.
The cast were all natural but I always find it hard to judge performances when they are not in English. Having said that, there were no bad performances in the whole thing even if some have better material to work with than others. Of course I still think this is a director's film and the cast often take second place to the style and the feel of the film.
Overall I really enjoyed this film but don't believe it deserves to be considered one of the 'best films ever made'! The opening hour is superb and it's pace is relentless (even in more sensitive moments) but the sudden stop the film makes when it changes to story two is too much to stand and really caused the film to stutter for me. It gets better and is fully back on track for story three but there are problems running all through the narrative. Even though it has a lower rating on IMDb at time of writing, I'd still say that 21 Grams offer this same fragmented style but with a much more satisfying narrative. Regardless of my nit picking I still think this is a powerful film that makes 150 minutes fly by with a huge amount of style from the first-time director, even if it does not live up to the endlessly gushing praise lavished upon it by many viewers.
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