“Biutiful” was directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu (“Babel,” “21 Grams,” “Amores Perros,”) and stars Javier Bardem in an oscar-nominated performance.
The movie is about Uxbal (Bardem,) a man who is separated from his wife Marambra (Maricel Alvarez) as he struggles to support their two children. Uxbal loves his kids and tries to be a good father, but life is not easy. He scrambles to makes ends meet. He routinely has to pay off the police to keep them out of his shady business dealings on the streets of Barcelona. His troubled wife wants to come back into his life, but she has not let go of her past addictions. Her behavior ranges from loving to self-destructive to selfish; plus she’s sleeping with Uxbal’s no-good brother. Things get worse: Uxbal has been recently diagnosed with cancer. All of a sudden he feels his life may be coming to an end. He worries for his children, and things seem without hope. We witness Uxbal’s struggle to survive, his love for his kids, his spirituality and glimpses into the afterlife–including his relationship with his deceased father.
Sometimes life isn’t as happy as we like. Most movies gloss over that fact. We like exciting car chases, comedy, romance, adventure, special effects and happy endings. I won’t pretend that I don’t like all those things. But there are movies which dare to be different, that confront life in all its unpleasantness–sadness, poverty, addiction or disease. Of course, documentaries do this often, but feature films, not as often. The challenge when making a movie about tough topics is to make something that people actually want to see or that they can somehow feel good about. “Biutiful” is such a movie. It has been nominated for a foreign Oscar. It’s a spectacular film, though it remains at times difficult to watch.
“Biutiful” is real and gritty, nuanced and insightful. Some may think the movie overly poetic, but I appreciate the movie’s touch of sentimentality. The music is alternately beautiful and dissonant. All of the performances, even those from the children, are spot on. Bardem embodies Uxbal so completely that we forget that we’re watching an actor. His performance is commanding, without ostentation, and a pleasure to watch.
I know that a movie dealing with mortality and the underbelly of life may not sound pleasant. But Iñárritu has directed “Biutiful” so beautifully, and the performances are so good, that it is a joy to experience. Even though the movie wrestles with some difficult real-life issues, the overriding emotion in the end is not hopelessness, but inspiration.
Rating 3.5 out of 4 stars
2010, Rated R, 147 minutes, Drama