Uxbal (Javier Bardem) is a morally complex man living in poverty in Barcelona, attempting to raise his children on his own. He can see the spirits of the recently deceased, he is conflicted over his feelings for his troubled wife and he makes most of his money trading in fake designer goods that are sold and made by illegal immigrants.
This multilingual and multiracial film once again explores writer/director Alejandro González Iñárritu’s (Babel) fascination with communication problems but also the things in life that transcend cultural differences. However, ultimately Biutiful is an exploration of fatherhood, guilt, culpability and mortality. It is Iñárritu’s most conventionally linear film but there are scenes where he gets sidetracked into unnecessarily exploring subplots. Such scenes feel more like extraneous diversions rather than helping to flesh out Uxbal’s story.
The entire look of the film emphasises decay and desolation to reflect Uxbal’s declining situation. Yet rather than being a depressing film, the dominance of greens and blues in the settings and the use of orange light creates more of a melancholic glow, culminating in an extraordinarily beautiful and rewarding ending.
Originally appeared in The Big Issue, No. 376, 2011