Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
Starring: Javier Bardem, Maricel Alvarez, Hanaa Bouchaib, Guillermo Estrella, Eduard Fernandez, Cheikh Ndiaye, Diaryatou Daff, Cheng Tai Shen, Luo Jin
It just so happens that there isn’t anything beautiful found in a flick titled Biutiful. Tragedy and despair fill the lens in just about every scene. Attempts of showing compassion between characters is as coarse as sandpaper. Even the atmosphere is cold and callous. Basically, this one is a real downer. However, if one is able to process and handle all of the dark emotions, they will be able to appreciate the beauty in the storytelling along with the steady performance of Javier Bardem. If you reach that emotional point, this 147 minutes has the potential to capture your heart. It also has the potential to have you walking out before the first hour is up.
Uxbal (Javier Bardem) is a loving father of two. His children are his shining light in life. As for the rest of his world, everything seems to be in downward-spiral. His wife Marambra (Maricel Alvarez) is about as worthless as they come. Tito (Eduard Fernandez), his brother and business partner, has a severe lack of morals. Which is obvious since the two brothers deal in smuggling Asians into the country (Spain) so construction companies can hire cheap labor. Meanwhile, Uxbal clearly has health problems, which is made clear by the urinating of blood. Seeing his face, the guy just looks drained and if it weren ‘t for his children, one wonders if he could actually make it through a day. As in, go on living.
After receiving the worst news anyone could get, he makes a noble attempt to better all the areas of his life. He isn ‘t looking for redemption and his true goal is to make sure his kids are taken care of. There are very few people he can trust, since he has surrounded himself with self-absorbed dirtballs. Yet he takes chances and tries improve the lives of people he has connected with through his shady business of smuggling illegal aliens.
Seems like a fairly simple story, but Inarritu thrives on piling on the tragedy. Hence the extended length of this feature. Although he injects a flavoring of genres ranging from heavy drama to psychological suspense, they are all overshadowed by the dire nature of the main character. Who is the equivalent of a punching bag for most of the story. There are occasions though where this bag hits back when you least expect it.
Seeing Javier Bardem stroll through an emotional rollercoaster is what keeps one vested in this repetitive tragedy. Simple things he does is what makes him a warming figure in a valley of sorrow. His blank stares after he deals with more bad news ropes one right in. The way he can ‘t look someone in the eye is heartbreaking. However, when he is motivated, his interaction with other characters reveals a commanding respect he demands. That aspect opens the door to intrigue. Eventually as the story become clearer, his character transforms into an anti-hero. And chances are, you will be wanting to explore this depressing realm of existence even further.
As always with foreign pieces, the flick does have subtitles, and the reading action can take away from the raw power on screen. The dialogue is very monotone and the true emotional vibe can never reach the level Inarritu intended. Which will then lead some audiences to want to check out of the theater and find a laugh right away. A flaw this flick has is the length and the lack of variety from scene-to-scene. Sure they are a few different story lines to follow, but they ‘re all executed in the same drawn out fashion. Lots of moping dialogue. The methodical nature coupled depressing characters is not something every viewer will buy into.
Overall, Biutiful is a provocative work of art. The lifeless atmosphere is made bearable by the gritty performance from Javier Bardem. If exploring harsh realities without a happy ending interests you, definitely give this a look. In a society that takes pleasure in watching and analyzing “train wrecks” these days, this disaster will literally suck the life out of you. In fact, chances are one will not want to talk about it after. Which may have been the exact mood Inarritu wanted to project on the audience.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Review by: Joe Belcastro