Babel Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu

As Alejandro Iñárritu’s previous work (21 Grams, Amores Perros) shows, the director has a pretty bleak worldview and Babel is no exception. This newest film has bad things happening to flawed people during loosely connected storylines that span five countries and six languages. A herding family in Morocco buy a gun to keep the jackals away from their goats but instead their two young boys accidentally shoot an American tourist (Cate Blanchett) riding on a tour bus. As her husband (Brad Pitt) freaks out and tries to get her medical attention in the middle of the desert, their kids wait oblivious back in L.A. with Mexican nanny Amelia (Adriana Barraza). Amelia ends up having to take her charges down to Mexico for her son’s wedding, driven by her loose cannon nephew (Gael Garcia Bernal). Meanwhile, in an incredibly tenuously connected story, a deaf-mute teenage girl in Japan (Rinko Kikuchi) struggles with her mother’s suicide, her distant father (Kôji Yakusho) and feeling like a monster by trying to have sex with everyone. The cast does a good job of maintaining the heightened emotional states required by a script that shows one horrible thing after another. It’s all very harrowing, with very few moments of lightness or levity — perhaps the only moments of relative joy are in the portrayal of the Mexican wedding, and even that careens drunkenly out of control to portend a very bad ending to the night. The film is well made and has some interesting things to say about the global realities of the post-9/11 culture of fear and heightened security, but the essence of the stories revolve around themes of disconnection from family. There’s not a whole lot of redemption found beyond a few isolated moments of reconnection, which makes the film unrelenting and difficult to watch. (Paramount Vantage)