Writer-director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu follows up his cult movies Amores Perros and 21 Grams with Babel, thus completing his trilogy of ‘family films’.
A master of non-linear story-telling, he weaves seemingly disparate stories together in four countries — USA, Mexico, Morocco, Japan — and interconnects them.
Though he began making a movie about the difference between human beings, and exploring his favourite theme of parent-children relationships, as filming progressed Inarritu realised he was making a movie “about the things that join us, connect us, and make us one. Those things are love and pain…”
Love and pain binds Richard and Susan to the Moroccan people they depend on for help and to deaf-mute Cheiko in Tokyo and to a Hispanic nanny torn between her maternal need to attend her son’s wedding in Mexico and her loyalty towards her employers.
Morocco as a setting helps portray America’s paranoid reaction to Muslims; Tokyo provides a fascinating backdrop as a country of extremes within which Inarritu brilliantly shows a deafmute girl’s point of view (especially the scene when she is high in a nightclub). Though she is silent, her heartache and loneliness are deafening.
As the only stars of the film, Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett play small but tough roles as a couple facing a crisis while on a vacation to salvage their marriage.
The rest of the cast of mainly unknown, amateur actors adds credibility to the gritty locales, handheld camera work and raw emotions of the characters.
All this is bound together by a haunting background score. Babel’s seven Golden Globe nominations are justified. Here is a film that keeps you thinking long after you’ve exited the cinema hall.