DRAMA 21 GRAMS (15) 124min 00,00

Amores perros, director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga’s visceral, cerebral tale of car crashes, dog fighting and interconnected lives in Mexico City, took the world by storm, picking up the Grand Prize in Cannes, securing Oscar nominations and putting asses on seats in arthouse cinemas and multiplexes alike. 21 Grams - named after the weight our bodies lose when we die - is their second collaboration (this time in English language) and achieves the same high standards and exceeds expectations of these remarkably gifted Mexican filmmakers.

Like Amores perros, it combines a down and dirty hyper-realistic look (courtesy of perros director of photography Rodrigo Prieto’s superb hand-held camera work) with a complex storytelling approach that does away with the traditional three act linear narrative. Inarritu and Arriaga have chopped their narrative into chunks so the plot jumps forwards and backwards in time and back and forth between the three main characters in the drama. The strategy requires hard work from the viewer, but it’s a deeply satisfying experience and the effect of

the filmmakers sparingly portioning out plot morsels to the audience creates something like a

feeding frenzy.

21 Grams begins (or rather, would, if the story was told chronologically) with a car accident. It

the film (an absent centre, as it turns out, because the crash happens off-screen), Jack, Cristina and Paul are thrown together in a wholly unexpected

would spoil the many pleasures of the film to manner.

divulge much more of the story, but suffice to say the accident changes the lives of three total strangers: ex-convict-turned-youth worker and family man Jack Jordan (Benecio del Toro), suburban wife and mother Cristina Peck (Naomi Watts) and college professor Paul Rivers (Sean Penn), who’s terminally ill and awaiting an organ transplant. Following the accident at the heart of

When adult child meets child adult

ROM-COM UPTOWN GIRLS (12A) 92."!‘1‘ 2,” .

Ostensibly a vehicle in the rom- com vein for rising starlet Brittany Murphy. Uptown Girls proves somewhat better than low expectations of the genre wetild suggest. For a start. it isn't a straight girl-meets-boy flick. The boy (pretty. bland Jesse Spencer. here playing wannabe pop star. Neal) is Sidelined. becoming a Sub-plot to the central story: the unlikely friendship between Murphy's New York SOCialite. Molly. and Dakota Fanning's precocious rich brat. Bay.

A bit of plot fumbling throws the young woman and younger girl together as the orphaned but wealthy Molly is cheated out of her inheritance and takes a job as Bay's nanny. a hard decision for the non-working girl that's also aimed at impressing her jobbing musician beau. Ray's

mother (Heather Locklear) happens to be a record producer. and guess which riSIng pop idol she signs to her label and press gangs into bed?

The body of the film. however. focuses on Molly and Bay's hate/love. hate love relationship. a good thing since the sparky Murphy and acerbic Fanning are easily the best thing abOut Uptown Girls. The trials and tribulations of their friendship a hearts and minds meeting of a child adult and an adult child are amusmg and at one point (on a fairground ridei quite tetiching. though the ending of the film is somewhat sick-making. It all plays more like a buddy—buddy (or gal-gal) mOVie than a rom- com. In fact, it's a gender- reversed version of the Nick Hornby adaptation. About a Boy. (Miles Fielder)

I General release from Fri 5 Mar

As the three protagonists strive to understand and confront their own and each others’ dilemmas, are the terrific performances Inarritu and Arriaga it becomes clear that Inarritu and Arriaga’s particular genius is to create an approximation of the inner turmoil and confusion of Jack, Cristina and Paul with their chopped up narrative. With 21 Grams, the storytelling structure, (part and parcel of supremely compelling. (Miles Fielder) American cinema since Quentin Tarantino adopted I Selected release "rorrr Fri :3


Chopped up and imploded

the once innovative methods of the French New Wave), is not a matter of style over content - it’s integral to the drama.

Underscoring the point that 21 Grams is first and foremost a deeply affecting character-driven drama

get from their leads - Del Toro, Watts and Penn really give it their all. You won’t witness three more convincing and committed performances all year, nor watch a drama so thoroughly engrossing or


It is that old relationship dilemma - what do you do when the initial excitement dies down? Do you stay or do you move on? this is the problem facing Paul (Alec Newman) whose life is turned upside down after a ‘.'/llll'l‘.'.'lll(l romance Wllll Juliette (Sienna Guilloryi. Soon domesticity beckons and he becomes worried that their flesh is decaying as fas as their ideals.

Enter the charismatic Billy (Marc Warren). l-le introduces the frustrated writer to the seedy world of bare knuckle fights. strip Joints. drugs and sex clubs.

The premise of writer/director Penny Woolcock's debut feature film is promising enough and. as a mediation on masculinity. the film carries faint echoes of DaVId Fincher's Fight Club but it lacks that films sheer visceral energy. and its faux rawness is at times curiously unrnvolvrng and tedious. Yet in Warren and Newman. Woolcock has two suitably dyspeptic and dislikeable stars. The film really comes into its own when it touches briefly upon the community tensions that eXIst Within the Sheffield estate it is based in. Woolcott is the Argentinian born writer/director behind three of the most impressive 'lV dramas to come out of British TV in the last five years ~— Macbeth on the [ state (1997). Tina Goes Shopping (1999) and The Death of K/iriglioffer' (2003i. With this, her first cinematic outing, she may have fumbled the ball a bit but there are enough interesting brutal side tackles here to keep you watching. Darkly provocative stuff. (Ann Leei I Selected release from Fri 12 Mar: See interwew page (it).

The British Fight Club?

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