Metascore
85

Universal acclaim - based on 26 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 25 out of 26
  2. Negative: 0 out of 26
  1. It's huge and bewildering and it hurts to watch, but it hurts so good it's gorgeous.
  2. A thoughtful, bittersweet film biography of the Cuban writer that captures both his irrepressible spirit and his sometimes overwhelming melancholy.
  3. Reviewed by: Jay Carr
    88
    Most of all it's the emotional and spiritual arc of an exile, in all its terrible isolation, that gives ''Before Night Falls'' its power.
  4. An impressive piece of filmmaking, with lively and suggestive depictions of pre- and postrevolutionary Cuba (shot in Mexico).
  5. 88
    There is a little something of the spoiled masochist about Arenas. One would not say he seeks misery, but he wears it like a badge of honor, and we can see his mistakes approaching before he does. This is not a weakness in the film but one of its intriguing strengths
  6. 88
    This is an art film in the true sense of the term, engaging the mind, senses and emotions in a way that only movies at their best can do.
  7. Politics and humanism find an engrossing balance in this ambitious drama based on the life of Reinaldo Arenas, a gay Cuban poet who was persecuted by the homophobic Castro regime.
  8. Reviewed by: David Ehrenstein
    80
    Arenas' story is a downer that doesn't produce despair. That's because of the exceptional bravery of Arenas himself, and the understanding that both Schnabel and his extraordinary leading man, Javier Bardem, have of him, his world, and his time.
  9. Arenas' life zigzags before us in a manner as heady and unpredictable as it must have felt to the man who lived it.
  10. 100
    With Before Night Falls, Schnabel has moved to an entirely new plane of cinematic achievement.
  11. Anchored by a charismatic and accessible performance by Javier Bardem as star-crossed Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas, this florid examination of an artist's coming of age, of cultures in collusion and conflict, is difficult to resist.
  12. 88
    A dreamy, passionate ode to freedom -- of thought, of expression, of every person's innate right to simply be.
  13. 80
    It's such a sensory experience; in its best moments, the film washes over you like a fever dream.
  14. A personal eulogy, from one artist to another, and an indictment of all systems of government that deny people the right to free expression and the full realization of their talent.
  15. 63
    Anyone expecting a hard-hitting biography will be disappointed by Julian Schnabel's soft-edged, dreamy and relatively nonpolitical film.
  16. Reviewed by: David Ansen
    100
    This powerful, lyrical meditation on Arenas's life achieves a kind of hallucinatory urgency as it leaps and twists through his life.
  17. This is a sad, passionate, beautifully wrought story, and Bardem's portrait of Arenas is at once daring and deeply moving.
  18. 100
    In uniting to honor Arenas, Bardem and Schnabel create something extraordinary.
  19. 80
    As good as it is, Before Night Falls might not work if Schnabel hadn't found a leading man to hold it together and the Spanish actor Javier Bardem has the understated charisma to pull it off.
  20. It's an horrific and tragic story, but somehow made beautiful through the care and attention of Schnabel's direction and Bardem's tender, unforgettable performance.
  21. Under Schnabel's direction, it becomes stilted and static, if not simplistic.
  22. Like a deathbed dream it leapfrogs through Arenas's life, reconstructing crucial moments as a succession of bright, feverish illuminations.
  23. Reviewed by: Ken Fox
    80
    Bardem's performance is simply shattering.
  24. Reviewed by: Mike Clark
    75
    Plays like a labor of love.
  25. Reviewed by: David Rooney
    90
    A dense, emotionally satisfying portrait of a man, a time and a place.
  26. 90
    The film's ephemeral, semi-evasive lyricism ultimately works as a modest frame for Bardem's tender, deft portrait, which is in turn suitably expansive and rooted in the most concrete details -- Arenas's pride and anger, his unsentimental wit and defiant vitality.
User Score
7.5

Generally favorable reviews- based on 27 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 8 out of 9
  2. Negative: 0 out of 9
  1. Aug 25, 2013
    10
    It's without doubt one of the best films ever made!! I wasn't expecting Johnny Depp to play this role and I am impressed that he played soIt's without doubt one of the best films ever made!! I wasn't expecting Johnny Depp to play this role and I am impressed that he played so good. I have no words for Javier Bardem.......he was perfect!! Full Review »
  2. Aug 26, 2010
    4
    Aside from a few fleeting moments of cinematic brilliance and some key performances, Julian Schnabel's biopic of homosexual Cuban writerAside from a few fleeting moments of cinematic brilliance and some key performances, Julian Schnabel's biopic of homosexual Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas falls flat on its face. Guest spots by Sean Penn and Johnny Depp are hilarious, though. Full Review »