Directed by: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Premise: Multiple interconnected stories. A family of Moroccan sheepherders acquires a rifle and their sons (Boubker Ait El Caid and Said Tarchani) accidentally shoot an American (Cate Blanchett) on a tour bus. As her husband (Brad Pitt) attempts to get her Western medical attention, the couple’s nanny (Adriana Barraza), an illegal immigrant, takes their children across the Mexican-American border to her son’s wedding. Meanwhile, in Japan a sexually frustrated teen (Rinko Kikuchi) attempts to make romantic connections with all of the wrong men.
What Works: The Amelia storyline is easily the best narrative in its story, editing, and acting. It is most heartbreaking narrative and although her story is not as grave as the story of the parents in Morocco, it does have better narrative movement. The story of the Moroccan peasants is also very strong, and the acting by the boys is very good. The breakdown of the family has a lot of weight to it and there is a lot of skill in constructing the destruction of the family not just from without but from within.
What Doesn’t: The weakest storyline is the Japanese girl. Although it is edgy and provocative, the story is clumsily handled and is so removed from the other narratives that it seems tagged on. The title of Babel refers to the Biblical story of the Tower of Babel but beyond the obvious language barrier, which is not even the major issue in two of the narratives, the film has little unity. The editing between stories is erratic and the juxtaposition of images and plot points of one narrative does not inform the audience about the others.
Bottom Line: Babel is a film that shoots too far. Director Alejandro González Iñárritu had accomplished something similar in 21 Grams, which was a far superior picture, in part because its different narratives were much more closely linked. In Babel there is little to be learned from all of this crosscutting and the stories work against each other instead of with each other.
Episode: #118 (November 19, 2006)