Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5. USA, 2003. This Is That Productions, Y Productions. Screenplay by Guillermo Arriaga. Cinematography by Rodrigo Prieto. Produced by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Robert Salerno. Music by Gustavo Santaolalla. Production Design by Brigitte Broch. Costume Design by Marlene Stewart. Film Editing by Stephen Mirrione. Academy Awards 2003. Independent Spirit Awards 2003. Las Vegas Film Critics Awards 2003. National Board of Review Awards 2003. New York Film Critics Awards 2003. Phoenix Film Critics Awards 2003. Toronto International Film Festival 2003. Washington Film Critics Awards 2003.
This is a powerful tale of love lost and souls redeemed that, like Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s previous feature Amores Perros has complete strangers linked by a tragic car accident. Naomi Watts plays an ex-drug addict who reformed when she married and had two little daughters, but finds herself spiraling back to her old habit after all three of her family members are run over by ex-con Benicio Del Toro and left to die. Sean Penn plays a dying mathematician who is given a second chance by a heart donation from Watts’s deceased husband. Needing to know who saved his life, Penn seeks Watts out and falls in love with her, and she convinces him that they need to find Del Toro to kill him. This film is told in a fragmented narrative style, with no two scenes following each other in sequence, but Inarritu’s incredibly assured direction is so clear that no audience member will find themselves confused as the story gets under way. The acting is pristine, from the three leads as well as Charlotte Gainsbourg as Penn’s long-suffering wife and Melissa Leo as Del Toro’s conflicted spouse. Penn outdoes his work in the same year in Mystic River and Watts is particularly mesmerizing.