Inarritu's "21 Grams" is basically "Amores Perros Goes To America"--multiple stories linked by a car accident, shot mostly in gritty verite style with a lot of handheld camera footage.
Seems to me that Inarritu, like Gaspar Noe, realized he didn't have much of a film if he didn't jumble up the timescheme (in Noe's case, the storyline's too thin; in Inarritu's case it's too absurd).
It's worth watching for more of Inarritu's signature style (which can get tired fast if you have low tolerance for this sort of thing; my limit just about covers this film and that's about it) and for the consistently terrific acting. Sean Penn I find better and far more understated than in Mystic River (I suppose it helps his character has a weak ticker); Benicio del Toro just blows Penn away without even much effort; and Naomi Watts pretty much holds the film (and my interest) together with her emotional (and literal) nakedness. Of the supporting roles, I thought Melissa Leo and Charlotte Gainsbourg were especially good (and hot).
Jim Sheridan's "In America" is more easily likeable--not so much because it's less violent or more uplifting, but because it has a linear story that is able to build and accumulate on what went on before (I thought "21 Gram's" time scheme too jumbled to build much of anything).
That said, a lot of it is pretty sticky and anything to do with Djimon Hounsou's artist giant dying of AIDS is just plain embarrassing. The opening sequence alone is problematic--the immigration officers sense something wrong, the father admits they lost a child, the officers feel sorry and let them go. That was when I knew the movie was going to be pure malarkey. Immigration officers never feel sorry. Well, maybe for white people.
So this is another one I was able to sit through mostly for the visual texture (which I liked better than Inarritu's--more confident, less gimmicky) and the performances. Morton I couldn't stand the crewcut, but she grows on you; Considine is a charmer. Sarah Bolger, yes she's terrific towards the end, but her statement "I carried this family since Frankie died" really threw me off--when did we see this happening? She just turned tragic and thoughtful just in time for the end. Sure there's the voiceover narration--but I've never liked them anyway, and especially not when they're meant to add "depth" and "meaning" to a movie.