Biutiful (2011)

Directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
Written by Nicolas Giacobone, Armando Bo & Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarittu has directed four films, each to critical acclaim. Babel, however, was the only one to garner attention from the Academy, until this film was released. Biutiful is the official selection from Mexico and stars the now famous Javier Bardem. It seems like just a handful of years ago nobody knew who this was. He was nominated for Best Lead Actor in 2000 for Before Night Falls, but it wasn’t until 2007, when Bardem chilled audiences with his portrayal of the cold killer Anton Chigurh in the Coen Brithers film No Country for Old Men. Now these two famous Spanish speaking giants team up for the ultra depressing film Biutiful.

The film follows Uxbal (Bardem) as he struggles to handle all of the curveballs that life seems to be throwing him. He lives in Barcelona with his two small children, Mateo and Ana. His wife, the children’s mother, is absent because she is an alcoholic and bipolar. Uxbal is involved in illegal purse selling, copying DVDs and immigrant labor pedaling. He also is a medium for the dead on the side. But when an illness strikes Uxbal, he must muster the courage, and the morality, to set his life along the right path, so that his children may live a better life than he has.

This film really is all about Bardem and his heartbreaking portrayal of Uxbal. You live and die with everything the man does. He is involved in illegal activity that involve questionable morals, but he convinces himself he is doing it for the right reason. He is giving these people jobs they otherwise wouldn’t have. He is providing for these foreigners so that they may live a better life in Spain. And you know something, he may be right. It is a hard point to argue when you see the fervor and commitment Uxbal gives his heart to these people. But at the same time he struggles to find a balance in his home life. Bardem is the key and he had me convinced all the way through the film. Magnificent performance.

Like I said, the film is quite depressing, and I would not be surprised if the majority of people that saw this film came out in tears, like the lady who sat across the aisle from me. Bless her heart and bless Gonzalez Inarritu for crafting such a heartbreakingly beautiful film. It is ugly, it is dirty and gritty, it seems all too real, yet so foreign to my white suburban upbringing. Do not tred lightly into the theater for this one. Come prepared, with an open mind, a bunch of tissues, and the heart to connect to such real characters, ripe with emotional, physical and moral dilemmas. Gonzalez Inarritu is a great filmmaker, there is no question about that, I just wonder where the happiness is within him? He makes such sad films.

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