Biutiful (2010)

Director:  Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
Cast:  Javier BardemMaricel Álvarez, Hanaa Bouchaib
Plot:  Connected with the afterlife, Uxbal is a tragic hero and father of two who's sensing the danger of death. He struggles with a tainted reality and a fate that works against him in order to forgive, for love, and forever.

Genre:  Drama
Awards:  Won Best Actor and nominated for Palme d'Or (Cannes).  Nom. for 2 Oscars - Best Leading Actor, Foreign Language Feature
Runtime:  148min
Rating:  M18 for disturbing images, language, some sexual content, nudity and drug use.

Biutiful represents the new face of Alejandro Inarritu, while simultaneously charting the path back to elements that characterized his earlier works. The skillful Mexican director teams up with Spanish Oscar-winning actor Javier Bardem (The Sea Inside, 2004; No Country for Old Men, 2007), delivering a triumph of a motion picture drama that is both rewarding and meaningful.

His frequent collaborators Rodrigo Prieto (for cinematography), Stephen Mirrione (for film editing), and Gustavo Santaolalla (for film score) combine their talents once again to give the film a style and feel that uniquely belong to Inarritu.

Shot largely from the perspective of Uxbal (Bardem), who plays a cancer-stricken father of a dysfunctional family, Biutiful is a story about one man’s relationship with his community, family, and his existential self. Uxbal earns side money by providing illegal Chinese with labour jobs in a construction site and protecting drug-selling Africans from police exposure.

He has a bipolar wife and two children who are psychologically restrained by his frequent volatile relations with their mother. Uxbal learns that he is dying soon, and despite suffering from physical pain, and the pain of seeing the people around him self-destruct, he summons the strength to live out his remaining weeks through love, forgiveness, and redemption.

Like his works before Biutiful, Inarritu gives it a cosmopolitan touch, shooting the film in at least three different languages, though he does not explicitly indulge in the sort of multiple narrative threads that structured his previous films such as 21 Grams (2003) and Babel (2006).

Bardem gives a tremendous performance that is deserving of his Best Actor win at Cannes. While never deliberately showy, he communicates a strong sense of loneliness and accepts his life’s path with resignation. Although he continues to live on with dignity, there is a kind of fated inevitability that exudes from his behavior and actions.

Biutiful takes some time to settle itself into the viewer’s mind, and when it does, it engages not only with his or her emotions, but also spiritually as the film meditates on the existential meaning of “struggling to live”. Inarritu paints his picture with the occasional tint of blue – a cold, unforgiving color that channels desolateness and grimness.

One of the best scenes in the film sees a tracking shot over blue waters. As the camera tracks back onto the beach, we see dead bodies that have been washed ashore. Accompanied by the transcendent music of Santaolalla, Biutiful is not only a soul-searching cinematic experience, but a film that reminds us of Inarritu’s incredible talent as a filmmaker.


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