I do enjoy films that employ interwoven storylines and movies that feature non-linear narratives. Sometimes, I like films that employ both. However, I don't like all films like that, or think that all films that use such techniques need to be done that way. This is one of those films.
This is a look at the lives of three broken people: a feverishly born again ex-con, a critically ill college professor, and a housewife with a tainted past. Their lives intersect following a bad car accident, and the films looks at their lives before, during, and after the crash, examining the consequences of things, and the interplay that goes on between them.
This is some intereting stuff, and I didn't mind that it was downbeat and depressing as all hell; I just didn't care for the jarring editing or feel that this needed to be told out of chronological order. It really seemed to have no other purpose than to tell a story in a unique way or to be interesting. That doesn't work when this sort of thing is old hat and the way it is done doesn't make things more interesting. It really just makes things seem jumbled and fractured, and not in a good way.
At least the story arcs are rather engaging, and the film has decent characters played by wonderful actors who give some compelling and great performances. My favorite was definitely Del Toro, though Watts gives a bold and courageous performance, while Penn seemed more low key though still commanding and powerful. I could have used a bit more Leo and definitely some more DuVall, but at least we got to see them at all.
The film brings up some interesting concepts and has a lot of nice things to offer, but I think it would have fared far better had they just played it straight. Doing something like this seemingly just for the sake of it takes away all of the powerful that the thing had in the first place, kinda like using Dutch angles without really understanding why they're effective when used properly.
So yeah, this film is decent, and has its moments, but it's a mess and doesn't hold up as being as strong as it should have been, so I'm on the fence, but mostly leaning towards a thumbs up.