First things first - watch this movie. I don’t know how much of my enjoyment came from my not knowing anything about this film, but if you know nothing about this film, go watch it first and then read on.
The direction/editing is the first thing that hits you. The film starts with a series of chronologically jumbled episodes from the lives of the characters, just tiny slices following each other with the rhythmic relentlessness of a locomotive. You try and piece together the lives of these people and the order in which these events might have happened given these tiny clues. Throughout the movie, each frame and each line offer some new information, some new meaning to try and piece into the puzzle. When you finally find out what the titular 21 grams refers to, it is goose-bump central. Then you find out who made this movie and you say “Man, I was wondering how this one came out of Hollywood.”
You sometimes notice how difficult it might have been to make this film because a lot of the clues are almost subliminal. The colour of the sky on a particular day. The grain of the film. The expression on the actors face. At the start, there are a million possibilities, but as one starts to piece them together, one slowly unfolds the horror that lies in wait. If you need a bit of space to deal with the intensity of the stories, the director gives none. He is merciless to the point that one of my friends asked that the movie be paused because “I need another drink, and I don’t like to cry in front of other people”. I am somehow glad that I didn’t watch this movie in a theater even though there is no doubt that it might have been the most cathartic and disturbing cinematic experience of my life.
This is a keeper, definitely. A masterclass in film making.