Director Alejandro González Iñárritu who previously brought us AMORES PERROS, 21 GRAMS and BABEL brings another hauntingly beautiful but still slightly misguided film about a man consciously torn about his actions in life in BIUTIFUL. If you are a big fan of his previous work then you will definitely like this film. But if you are like me who is captivated by his characters, story telling and structure but always left needing more cohesiveness then this film will be no different.
Deep in the heart of Barcelona, Uxbal (Javier Bardem) is a middleman of sorts pushing knock off merchandise on the street. He helps provide the labor and keeps the cops at bay from the illegal business. These are regularly not the characteristics of an honest man but Uxbal is yearning to be a good person and his dedication to his children help create a tragic hero that the audience can get behind. Separated from his bipolar wife who is anything but reliable, Uxbal raises their two children on his own. After discovering he has cancer with a limited time to live, he allows his wife back into his family’s life but things only get worse. Tragedy strikes again when he tries to help the poor immigrant working conditions. In a very unique and frightening twist Uxbal has the ability to communicate to the recently deceased. These tormented visions and conversations appear to add to Uxbal’s continual suffering realizing the necessity to receive atonement for his sins.
What makes Uxbal an interesting character is he does not simply want to avoid hell or just want to go to heaven but he genuinely is a good man wanting to do the right thing. He unfortunately is in a life position that he can’t quite change. He is devoted to his children and while his profession may not be justifiable, he ironically will not stand for any injustice that might put them in harms way.
Most of the credit belongs to Javier Bardem for this is truly his characters journey. Few actors can pull off the range Bardem does but even fewer could play this character with such restrained emotion. You can clearly see the battle and torment within his character without him barely speaking a word. His character is a criminal but Bardem has the layers to make him likeable. Obviously, the direction by Iñárritu is superb. Not only does he always bring out the best from his actors but he also gives a unique vision, capturing the mood and environment in his amazing camera work.
Nominated for Best Foreign Film and Best Actor at the Academy Awards, BIUTIFUL is one of those films that has many convincing arguments on why it technically is so great. And I’m in full support of the rich characters and interesting aspects usually unseen in film. Iñárritu has an ability to delve deep into character layers creating tension that regularly would not be noticeable but sometimes his films become a little scattered when trying to achieve his goal. While BIUTIFUL has many excellent qualities it falls just short on having a clear focus when trying to piece those qualities together.
Video: (1080p High Definition 2.35:1) The picture is clear using muted tones to bring out the cold gritty city environment of the less fortunate.
Audio: (5.1 DTS-HD MA) Although many conversations are quietly spoken the sound is very clear. However, I’m reading the subtitles and not having to understand the words.
Behind Biutiful: Director’s Flip Notes (21:42): Director Alejandro González Iñárritu filmed these behind the scenes himself and narrates throughout complimenting everyone involved. It’s obvious he has a real emotional connection to his work.
Biutiful Crew (4:02): This is a compilation of clips of each crewmember and their position smiling and laughing put to music.
Interviews (8:17): Divided into three segments, Javier Bardem, Eduard Fernandez, Mariel Alvarez each discuss their characters and what it was like working on the film.