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Saturday April 13th 2024

21 Grams | 2003

A traumatic road accident knots together three strangers, and though there’s powerhouse acting from the leads, Iñárritu’s fragmented style makes heavy going of the melodramatic story. The unspecified setting is a strange hybrid of Memphis, Tennessee and Albuquerque, New Mexico.

In Memphis, Cristina Peck (Naomi Watts) lives in the upscale Chickasaw Gardens neighbourhood, and the hospital in which Paul Rivers (Sean Penn) recovers after transplant surgery was a disused Baptist Hospital.

The golf club, from which born-again ex-con Jack Jordan (Benicio Del Toro) is sacked, is Windyke Country Club, 8535 Winchester Road; and the apartment block is the historic William Len Building, 110 Monroe Avenue at South Main Street. If you like the look of the place, you’ll be pleased to know you can now stay there – in June 2004 it opened as the Residence Inn Memphis Downtown.

Feeling compelled to discover the origin of his new heart, Paul meets up with a private investigator at Winchester Bowl, 3703 South Mendenhall Road.

It was in the old Anderton’s East Restaurant, which stood at 1901 Madison Avenue that he learns the donor’s identity. The restaurant, which had stood on the site since 1956, closed down in 2004 and has since been demolished.

Paul goes on to contrive a meeting with Cristina at the swimming baths in the the gymnasium of Grace-St Luke’s Episcopal School, 246 South Belvedere Boulevard.

More Memphis scenes were filmed at the North End Restaurant, now Westy’s, 346 North Main Street, between North Front and North Third Streets in the Pinch District.

The rest of the filming was around Albuquerque, New Mexico. ‘Earnestine’s’ (based on a real hangout, in Memphis), outside which a drug-addled Cristina shunts her car, was a facade erected on the 600 block of Central NW, downtown Albuquerque.

The police station is way west of Albuquerque, at 619 Uranium Street in the tiny town of Milan, near Grants, and the scrubby wasteland is Zia Pueblo territory, about 16 miles north of Albuquerque, which was seen also in John Carpenter’s Ghosts of Mars.

Seeking some form of retribution, Paul and Cristina track down the tormented Jack to the Leisure Lodge, 1204 East Santa Fe Avenue, in Grants itself, a motel standing on the old Route 66.