Biutiful Review


Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu’s latest film is a tumultuous journey through one man’s acquiescence of mortality. Through powerful cinematography from Rodrigo Prieto combined with excellent acting, an incredibly moving experience is created.

Biutiful centres on the life of Uxbal (Javier Bardem), a fixer living in Barcelona who arranges work for illegal immigrants as well as making money through telling relatives of the recently deceased parting messages from beyond the grave.

Through his exploitation of others, Uxbal is not an immediately likeable person and yet, in an Oscar nominated performance, Bardem creates a truly endearing character.

Following an estranged marriage with his alcoholic, bipolar wife Marambra (Maricel Álvarez) who is having an affair with his sleazy brother Tito (Eduard Fernández), Uxbal is left alienated when diagnosed with inoperable prostate cancer.

With two children to look after but no one to help when he is gone, Uxbal faces a painful anxiety as he struggles to accept his immanent fate.

Beautifully poetic, the film is illustrious with metaphor as a vision of his deceased father he never knew gives some reassurance to an otherwise lost will of existence.

Terrific sound from José Antonio García adds to the rising tension of the film, teetering on the overwhelming in its support of its desolate themes.

However, with its many branching sidelines to equally morbid subplots the film is perhaps idealistically grim.

Bardem is undeniably brilliant in the ruthless honesty to which he encapsulates the deterioration – both mental and physical – of a dying victim and yet surprisingly this is not sufficient enough for Iñárritu.

The sincerity of Bardem’s performance is hindered by a somewhat implausible combination of equally depressing coincidences. As the world which is formed around Uxbal literally falls apart there is a sense that Iñárritu has gone too far in the extent to which he adds an ongoing oppressiveness to the tale making the film emotionally draining.

Despite this, it would be unfair not to focus on what is an otherwise astonishing film. A truly breathtaking performance on the part of Bardem and some deeply moving scenes make this a vexatious watch. If only this was continuous throughout.

Taken from The Student, published Tue Feb 1 2011.