You may not like the film itself, but you must admit the actors' talent -- Sean Penn, Naomi Watts, Benicio Del Toro are all fantastic. The story, meldrmatatic as it is, is not a problem. The real problem is, you may not be absorbed in the way it is told.
See the characters first. Christina (Naomi Watts) is a mother of two daughters, married to a loving husband. Tragic accident happens to them (that you will see soon), and Chris can be what she was any longer.
The accident was caused by one man Jack (Del Toro), a devoted believer of one sect of religion, and he was also doing time in prison before becoming a fervent member. Jack is also a father of two kids, and one of them knows what the father did.
Christina's tragedy brings another man onto the stage -- Paul (Penn). We know he was going to die -- because of his heart -- but Christina's husband gives another life to him. However, Paul is still unhappy, as if he lost something (perhaps when he should be happy before his wife) And he meets Chris, the one he should never meet. After that, everything starts to rush lie a Greek tragedy.
All these ingredients can be told in the traditional storytelling scheme. The dirctor (of "Amores Perros") strongly refuses that linear narrative, and he gives a very experimental approach to the material --so unique that you should be very attentive to what is going on the screen.
THE FILM'S STORY IS BROKEN into pieces, and they, regardless of chronological order, are all again pieced together, as if hesitating to reveal the whole truth. Thanks to the taut editing and fast pace, you will not lose interest in what happened to these characters to the end, at which the film shows what really happened to them.
And what happened? They turn out so convoluted that you might accuse the director of being too intent on giving one or two too many surprise to us. In fact, though the film's first half is gripping, the second half gets a little dull, for by then we come to realize what is the reality behind these fragmentary scenes. The director tries to outwit us, but the last action of the film is, frankly speaking, preposterous.
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu certainly believes in the power of film as media, and he is good at presenting his story, too. I know he wants to say something -- something about the still undying power of cinema -- sacrificing the accessible narrative method. But you see a dying person, and then see the same person alive and kicking, we find it somewhat disturbing and even pretentious. Why does he go experimental when you get a better way of telling that, in this case, chronological order? We want a better answer to that, in Inarritu's next film.