Requiem for a Dream (USA 2000)

Director: Darren Aronofsky

Starring: Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto, Marlon Wayans, Jennifer Connelly

Screenplay: Aronofsky, Hubert Selby Jr.

Bit parts: Keith David (the world's most aggressive man - see The Thing, They Live and There's Something About Mary) as Connelly's pimp and Sean Gullette (the star of Pi) as a creepy, baldy perve.

Fact: A great title for a film (well, more of an opinion than a fact, but it's certainly better than Cops and Robbersons)

In one lineOld and young become addicted to different types of narcotics.



Hubert Selby Jr helped to adapt his own novel about the power of addiction for this powerful second film from director Aronofsky. The main theme of the film is the ease by which we become addicted and how each generation finds a different form of debilitating escape to fill the empty nature of existence. 

Selby's characters are deluded by their addiction and it's the objective observers of both novel and film who are the only ones who can see their inevitable destruction. These themes were picked up by Irvine Welsh in 'Trainspotting' and are not exactly revelatory to anyone who has encountered drug abuse, but Selby's novel pre-dates Welsh's by almost thirty years. The characters in both novels often convince themselves that they need just one more hit before they will give up their addiction completely.

Burstyn plays lonely widow Sarah Goldfarb who learns that she will soon be appearing on a gameshow and sets herself a weight loss target in order to fit into a favourite red dress. Sara receives conflicting advice from her fellow Brooklyn/Coney Island fifty somethings and visits a seedy doctor who gives her slimming pills. Sara becomes addicted to the amphetamines in the pills (she had previously been addicted to the seductive powers of  lowbrow television and television advertising) and after an initial euphoric rush begins to degenerate. Burstyn's performance is compelling throughout and her breakdown in the reception area of a television studio is an outstanding piece of acting.

Burstyn was nominated for an academy award but was beaten by Julia Roberts for her 'feisty' performance in Erin Brockovich.


There are good performances from Leto (as Sara's drugs-obsessed son Harry) and from Wayans as Harry's friend Tyrone.  Connelly is also good as Harry's girlfriend Marion. Harry tries for one big drug deal to set himself up and heads to Florida with Tyrone. Unfortunately Harry has become a user and is in no fit state (both mentally and physically) to look after himself. A large infected wound develops in Harry's arm and a scene where Harry injects heroin into the wound will likely put you off your dinner. You certainly wouldn't want to find Harry's pus infected gangrenous lump in a Gregg's pasty.

Marion also finds herself immersed in this horrible, twilight world and degenerates into prostitution and a purveyor of a unique form of gentleman's pleasure (the 'ass to ass' scene is a bit rude, as you can imagine).

A great but very depressing film.