by / January 10th, 2011 /

Biutiful

Review by on January 10th, 2011

Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu
Cert: 15A
Running Time: 147mins
Release Date: January 28 2011

Biutiful is the first feature by Alejandro Gonzalez Innartiu, Mexican-born director of Amores Perros, 21 Grams and Babel, without his former collaborator, screenwriting partner Guillermo Arriaga. Innartiu has chosen to veer away from their trademark depiction of a collection of protagonists with criss-crossed paths and interlinked fates. Here he concentrates solely on Uxbal, played superbly by Javier Bardem, a man whose life at the very grimy bottom of the social rung in Barcelona comprises a constant series of unfortunate choices, as he desperately tries to keep it together and make right with his life to do his best by his two children. A cancer diagnosis only increases his desperation. His attempts to get his affairs in order and ensure that his children are cared for after his death amount to a series of misguided actions undertaken in the fog of illness.

Uxbal’s livelihood follows a contradictory, chaotic hotchpotch of paths. His gift of communicating with the dead sees him visit the recently bereaved to help the souls of their loved ones go peacefully to the other side, while his street hustling has him walk an agitated line between exploiting immigrant Chinese and Senegalese workers and genuinely caring for their welfare. In spite of his experiences, Uxbal has a lack of cynicism and is almost naive in his dealings with those around him. He places his faith repeatedly in the potential goodness of those around him, even in his ultimate devotion to the selfish, destructive bipolar mother of his children, Marambra, superbly played by Maricel Alvarez.

Somehow, through Uxbal’s downward spiral and constant adversity, the viewer feels hope, faith that through all of his doomed manoeuvrings, something or someone will come good. Ultimately, Biutiful will break your heart, yet reaffirm your faith in the strength of the human spirit. It is more human than Amores Perros, it has more soul than Babel, it has more focus than 21 Grams, and, in spite of the grim subject matter, it will leave you feeling strangely uplifted.