Biutiful (starring Javier Bardem)
A multilayered storyline that primarily focuses on Uxbal (Javier Bardem), BIUTIFUL is an interesting, visually stirring and emotional drama. Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, this complicated film is reminiscent of other pieces he has directed, BABEL and 21 GRAMS in the way that it is gritty, has several overlapping storylines and shares a similar style of camera work. Set in Spain, a lot of territory is covered throughout BIUTIFUL, from illegal immigration, cancer, family relationships and being able to communicate with the recently deceased (yes, you read that last part correctly). Ultimately, underneath all of the stories, I found this to be a story about a man with a compassionate spirit and the hardship he faces.
No matter the role, Javier Bardem has a charisma that makes him instantly likeable which is an important feature to have as the hero in this coarse drama. Even when doing bad things, like being the middleman exploiting illegal immigrants to sell pirated goods or hustling fees from people who have recently lost a loved one to share his communications with the dead – it doesn’t seem that terrible. As a dedicated single parent of two, you forgive his career indiscretions; willing him to succeed no matter the cost. He has the ability to wear the perfect emotion for each scene which can be jarring at times. Bardem’s performance is, per usual, top notch.
The supporting cast in this picture did a tremendous job, specifically Maricel Álvarez as Uxbal’s estranged wife, Marambra. A reckless woman with bi-polar tendencies, she has abandoned the role of wife and mother for a life of bed hopping and drugs with the idea that she can clean up at anytime. Everything about Marambra is wrong, frustrating, and terrifying. It is gut-wrenching to see her go from happy and sober to a desperate train wreck. And when she fails as mother it is hard to endure as well.
Diaryatou Daff who tackled the role of illegal immigrant Ige slowly became a favorite character of mine. Tough and calloused when we are first introduced to her; Ige’s transformation to conflicted caregiver was, to be corny, beautiful. I appreciated the compassion Uxbal feels for Ige and her child and understand how she could be wary to trust the man who exploited her husband to get goods sold.
A variety of scenes have a haunting quality, such as when Uxbal avoids confronting deceased immigrants or when things become a bit graphic with his disease . If you can handle the subtitles, I think this is a movie that should be watched and discussed as there are so many current points in this film and raises a lot of ‘what would you do in this scenario’ type of questions. This is not a film to watch if you want to relax – from the first whispers of this film to the closing credits, I found myself leaning forward intent on capturing every detail of this tragic story. BIUTIFUL is not one I would watch over and over again but it definitely had a strong and long-lasting impact on me.