Film review – Biutiful (2010)

Biutiful: Uxbal (Javier Bardem)
Uxbal (Javier Bardem)

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

Thomas Caldwell, 2011

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One comment

  1. I thought the ending was ludicrous! I’m referring to the very end, not the very affecting scene between Uxbal and his daughter (that was the best scene of the film IMO).

    Unfortunately, discussion is precluded by the spoiler factor. Pity – I’d really like to know how you could have assessed the ending as you did.

    I agree with you about the sidetracking and subplots, which spoke of a fatal flaw at the core of the movie: it lacked clear narrative and thematic direction and – inevitably – coherence.

    Bardem’s performance was terrific, but not sufficient to save the movie. I ended up pondering a question that I find popping up at the conclusion of a lot of movies in recent times: WHY was it made? Answer: Buggered if I know!

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