A masterfully directed tale of parallel stores, Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Babel occasionally feels awkward with its disjointed narrative, but it´s entirely compelling all the way through.
Similarities abound to Iñárritu´s previous work. In Amores Perros, intersecting stories were presented in straightforward fashion, one after the other. In 21 Grams the stories were cut up and re-assembled in a disjointed jigsaw puzzle that abandoned a sense of time.
In Babel, the drive is strictly emotion as Iñárritu cuts from one story to the next, ignoring plot but staying on the same emotional wavelength; it´s a masterful, unique accomplishment in direction and editing.
Guillermo Arriaga´s script, however, is less remarkable. Husband and wife Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett take a vacation to Morocco; Blanchett is wounded by a stray bullet and stuck in a small village with minimal medical treatment.
Meanwhile, back in the US, nanny Adriana Barraza takes their children to Mexico so she can be with her son on his wedding. And over in Japan, a young deaf girl (Rinko Kikuchi) tries to overcome her mother´s suicide and her father´s emotional distance.
If the stories sound disjointed, that´s because they are – but the film moves with such a deep drive that we are willing to forgive the simple, perhaps contrived connections between them.
I was not able, however, to forgive the Mexican wedding tale; the actions taken by nanny Barraza were preposterous, and Gael Garcia Bernal is completely wasted as her nephew – he simply disappears from the proceedings.
But this is a movie where the filmmaking outshines everything else – it´s still wonderful, despite the flaws in the script. The Japanese story is easily the best in the film – scene with deaf Kikuchi at a rave is absolutely unforgettable.