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21 Grams

October 4, 2015

21 GA critically acclaimed story of lives intertwined by tragedy. Love, hate and redemption are explored in the aftermath of loss.

Themes: living and dying, parenting and bereavement.

“A deeply spiritual film exploring the ties that bind together a heart transplant recipient, a grieving mother, and a born-again ex-con in a riveting journey of guilt, pain, sacrifice, and redemption. “ says http://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/films/reviews/view/6697

21 Gramst deals with heart transplants, religious faith, artificial insemination, addiction, guilt, grief, redemption, and the hold the dead have over us. Moving backward and forward in time, this riveting drama speaks to our souls with its incessant probes into the importance of human choice and the degradations brought on by self-destructiveness.

Jack is a recovering alcoholic who has been in and out of prison all his life. In an effort to find meaning and ballast in his wayward existence, he has become a born-again Christian. He attends church regularly with his skeptical wife, Marianne (Melissa Leo), and their two young children. While working with an angry and troubled young man, Jack tells him that Jesus got him the new truck that he won in a raffle. Proudly displayed in the back of the vehicle is the word “FAITH” along with a “Jesus Saves” sign. Jack is upset when the youth doesn’t buy into the benefits of believing.

His impatience is even more evident when he tries to teach his children what it means to turn the other cheek. His son hits his daughter, and Jack orders her to allow him to slug her other arm as well. A stunned Marianne carries the crying girl away from the dinner table. Jack then slaps his son on the head and orders him to stand in the corner. “No hitting in this house,” he says. His son coils in fear and anger in the corner after hearing that mixed message from his raging father.

Paul is a college math professor with a terminal heart condition. He struggles with the uncertainty of his future and the drudgery of being dependent on machines for his breathing. Occasionally, Paul sneaks into the bathroom where he has hidden some cigarettes in a medicine bottle. When his British wife, Mary, finds out that he is jeopardizing his chances of receiving a heart transplant, she is livid. The two of them were separated in the past and she even had an abortion while on her own. Now having a baby is the most important thing in the world to her. A doctor says that the damage done to her fallopian tubes by the abortion means that artificial insemination is her only chance to get pregnant. Paul reluctantly agrees to participate, knowing that he may never see the child.

Cristina used to abuse drugs but now she is married to an architect and is raising two young daughters. She loves to swim with her older sister – it offers a regular purgation from the self-destructive life she has left behind. When her husband and daughters are killed in a hit-and-run accident, Cristina, Paul, and Jack are drawn together in a mysterious connection that deeply influences and changes them all. The incidents that unfold reveal the fragility of our mortal condition and the ties that bind us together with other imperfect human beings caught up in their own pain and confusion.

Paul, given a life reprieve, goes on a mission of mercy in a last attempt to instil some meaning to his life. Jack has a crisis of faith in God. And Cristina plunges into a course of self-destruction. When her father assures her that life will go on, she responds in rage that it doesn’t happen that way for everyone. Her grief is filled with terrible anger and regret which explode in the faces of those who try to reach out to her in love.

There hasn’t been a film with this kind of raw emotional power since Lars von Trier’s Breaking the Waves (1996). The title 21 Grams refers to the weight we lose when we die: it is the weight of a stack of five nickels, a hummingbird, a chocolate bar, and we ask, what else? Inarritu and screenplay writer Guillermo Arriaga hav

Three well-meaning but flawed people: Paul Rivers, an ailing mathematician lovelessly married to an English émigré; Christina Peck, an upper-middle-class suburban housewife, happily married homemaker with two young daughters, with hiding a secret past; and Jack Jordan, an ex-convict who has found in his Christian faith the strength to live a law-abiding life and raise a family. They will be brought together by a terrible accident that will change their lives. By the final frame, none of them will be the same as they will have learnt harsh truths about love, faith, courage, desire and guilt, and how chance can change our worlds irretrievably.

“21 Grams” is done in the Quentin Tarantino “all the scenes are out of order” style, which is a good way to tell this story.

Paul Rivers is a college math professor and a long-time smoker who is close to death from heart failure. He’s weak, coughs and gasps, and drags around an oxygen tank to help him breathe. He’s on the transplant list for a new heart. His wife wants nothing more than to get pregnant by him before he dies.

Jack Jordan is an ex-con that has spent more time in jail than out, but has reformed and is working in a church, spreading the gospel, and helping kids that are heading toward the same kind of trouble he’s been in. He and his wife have two young children.

Cristina Peck seems to be a typical housewife. She and her husband have two young daughters, and they appear to have an ideal life.

One afternoon Jack accidentally runs over Christina’s husband and daughters while they’re out walking. Both of the little girls are killed, and the father ends up brain dead. Christina consents to organ donation, and her husband’s heart ends up being transplanted into Paul.

Jack turns himself in for the hit-and-run and goes to jail, but is later released. Paul recovers and hires a private detective to find the donor family (to find out “who he is”). The detective comes up with the information not only about the donor and his widow, but also about the ex-con. Most of the movie is about the relationships that develop between these three main characters.

[last lines] Paul Rivers: How many lives do we live? How many times do we die? They say we all lose 21 grams… at the exact moment of our death. Everyone. And how much fits into 21 grams? How much is lost? When do we lose 21 grams? How much goes with them? How much is gained? How much is gained? Twenty-one grams. The weight of a stack of five nickels. The weight of a hummingbird. A chocolate bar. How much did 21 grams weigh?

Paul Rivers: [quoting a poem] The earth turned to bring us closer. It turned on itself and in us, until it finally brought us together in this dream.

Paul Rivers: There are so many things that have to happen for two people to meet.

Cristina Peck: You know what I thought when mom died? I couldn’t understand how you could talk to people again, how you could laugh… again. I couldn’t understand how you could play with us. And no, no that’s a lie, life does not just go on.

Jack Jordan: God knows when a single hair moves on your head.

Cristina Peck: Katie could have lived. She’d be alive right now but that bastard left her there. Laying in the street. He left the three of them like animals. He didn’t care. She could be here with me. That son of a bitch is walking the streets, and I can’t even go into their room. I wanna kill him. I’m gonna kill Jack Jordan. I’m gonna kill that son of a bitch.

Paul Rivers: Slow down, just slow down.

Cristina Peck: Slow down. Slow down. While I what, huh? While I what?

Paul Rivers: Take it easy.

Cristina Peck: Take it easy? My husband and my little girls are dead, and I’m supposed to take it fucking easy? I can’t just go on with my life! I am paralyzed here! I am a fucking amputee! Do you see that? Who are you? You owe it to Michael. No, you’ve got his heart. You’re in his house fucking his wife! And sitting in his chair! We have to kill him!

Paul Rivers: Not like this.

Cristina Peck: Then how? Tell me how! Katie died with red shoelaces on. She hated red shoelaces. And she kept asking me to get her some blue ones. And I never got her the blue ones. She was wearing those fucking red shoelaces when she was killed!

Marianne Jordan: Life has to go on Jack. With or without God.

Jack Jordan: I’m gonna turn myself in.

Marianne Jordan: What? Why would you do that, Jack?

Jack Jordan: It’s my duty.

Marianne Jordan: Your duty’s to your family!

Jack Jordan: My duty’s to God.

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