The back cover of the dvd for this movie advertises it as a “suspense/thriller” but generally I saw it as a drama/tragedy. There’s nothing really exciting in the film from beginning to end; it’s pretty much non stop depressing scenes. The scenes play out of order but the plot is fairly straightforward and there’s not any over arching reason why they play out of order. The film basically only leaves one thing up to your questioning until the very end, aside from the initial confusion.
Benicio Del Toro plays a born again ex-con who accidentally hits a father and his 2 young daughters and then speeds off. All three of them die and he turns himself in. The mother, Naomi Watts, fails to prosecute so he’s released in fairly short order but is obviously struggling with his faith and some sick bastard told his kids about what happened so he has to deal with their accusatory glances as well. This kind of drives him insane and he has to leave and cope with his guilt on his own elsewhere. I like his story arc the best but there’s some really over the top symbolism that’s utterly unnecessary.
Sean Penn is on his deathbed to start the movie as his heart failed for whatever strange reason; the only particularly unhealthy thing about his character is that he smokes which would probably cause lung failure before heart failure, but who knows (also fairly young naturally). He eventually makes a speech in the film about the beauty of mathematics and how there’s a number behind everything, unfortunately he couldn’t work out the basic equation that smoking is bad for you. He’s saved by the car accident as the father’s heart is transplanted into his body, though he wants to thank the family members.
Eventually he gets together with the widow, Naomi Watts, and they end up having a relationship. It’s not really sexy or romantic at any point by design; though it is a bit weird. You have to allow for some Hollywood magic here as the reason he finds Naomi is because of some PI. It’s not divine providence that draws them together in infidelity, but Sean Penn’s stalking her for a while to find out more about why he’s still alive.
I won’t spoil the rest of the plot but suffice to say everything works out about as sadly as possible. The film is well acted, well shot, and fairly interesting from start to finish; if occasionally offensive. It is better than the Machinist, the only other hit and run car accident film I’ve seen, though a lot of that has to do with having 3 good lead actors instead of 1. Without the “bash you over the head” symbolism in Benicio’s story I would have liked it a fair amount better. The film is mostly silent on the music front, which functions quite well as there’s a lot of focus on breathing and otherwise silence in various scenes.