Who Knew Darkness Could Be So 'Biutiful'
Right off the bat I’m going to say Biutiful is a film that’ll emotionally challenge each and every single person who watches it. This film stood with me for a few days after screening it, and as I embarked on a journey which questioned how millions of us may live in this world, Bardem’s character of Uxbal defines it to the core. Fully displaying darkness within darkness, Biutiful provides the will to live for the purpose of fighting the good fight is always decided based on passion, drive, and a mindset of taking on any challenge.
Alejandro González Iñárritu's latest film "Biutiful" takes a darkened way of life and, through flawless filmmaking and a great acting, deliver a stunning film. This depressingly dark Spanish film traces Uxbal (Javier Bardem), a single father who coordinates work for illegal immigrants from Africa and Asia for a cut of their pay. The work he finds them is under the table and exploitative, but it's all that's available and he makes the most of it. He lives modestly in a small apartment taking care of his young daughter and son while his estranged drug-haunted wife works as a masseuse and experiences battles with psychotic fits thanks to her bipolar disorder. A life Uxbal has struggled to make work begins to crumble when he is diagnosed with prostate cancer and is given only a short amount of time to live. All of a sudden, he must set his priorities straight, generate work for the immigrants and someone to take care of his children once he passes. It's a draining task and one that takes Uxbal to the edge of (in)sanity, causing uncontrollable hallucinations, insomnia and overwhelming stress with the lives of so many people in his dying hands, it’s unbearable for him to comprehend and accept.
Amidst his slow emotional and physical demise, Uxbal tries to mend his relationships with factory bosses and his wife, trying to keep things linked together as they unleash before him. Issues with the police, ever worsening work conditions and abusive management keep the immigrants from finding sustainable work and the fact Uxbal takes a cut of their pay even adds to his guilt. He is essentially a father figure for a large group of displaced people trying to make a living in a foreign country – the grungy unexposed ghettos of underground Barcelona, Spain. At the same time he gives his sick wife chance after chance to rekindle their love and bring their family back together. Her carefree lifestyle and inability to connect with her children create constant stress and obstacles for Uxbal as he tries to find someone to care for them once he dies.
Under these vile circumstances, Javier Bardem shines. His performance is an emotional roller-coaster, constantly dragging viewers through the turmoil Uxbal continuously faces throughout the film. From the compassionate father to the guilt-stricken man staring death in the face, to a cringing reaction at his sudden weight loss as scenes progress, he owns his character and does it ever so brilliantly! Shaping a haunting character that feels almost too real to handle. A man with the responsibility of ensuring the well being of large groups of people as well as his own children, all while coming to terms with death sounds like exhausting duties for any actor, but the fact that Bardem succeeds really sets this foreign film aside from any other I’ve ever seen, dare I say, ever produced!
Iñárritu's artistic filmmaking intelligence is clearly evident, making brilliant note of the depressed urban Spanish environment in times of both beauty and ugliness. Whether Uxbal is dragging his children across town or drunk and stumbling through a nightclub, the cinematography compliments Bardem nearly as well as the outstanding performance by Bianca Portillo as Uxbal's estranged wife. Her seesaw-like emotions and strange relationship with Uxbal lights a fire within the dynamic of his family that further leads the movie into an emotional web of deceit.
Overall, this film may not obtain mainstream recognition even though it deserves it, however, due to dialog completely in Spanish (review in Spanish too) and heavy subject matter, lets not hold our breath, but Bardem's performance is absolutely Oscar worthy. The fact that Biutiful is in Spanish takes nothing from the experience. In fact, the language elevates Bardem's performance, showcasing his comfort in his native language. I know it’s up for a Golden Globe, but I’m sure those behind-the-scenes within the Oscars aren’t overlooking Bardem or Biutiful in any way, shape or form either.
Make note this film may not be for everyone, however, I do recommend giving it a chance!
GRADE: B+ / GENRE: Foreign and Drama / LANGUAGE: Spanish / ROARS: 4.25 out of 5
RATED: R / RUN TIME: 2 Hrs 28 Min
CAST: Javier Bardem, Maricel A. Ivarez, Hanaa Bouchaib, Guillermo Estrella, Eduardo Fernandez, Cheikh Ndiaye, Diaryatou Daff
DIRECTOR Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
Biutiful opened on a special one week engagement in New York (Sunshine) and Los Angeles (AMC Century City) on Wednesday, December 29th., and Opening nationwide Friday, January 28th. 2010
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