“Biutiful” (film review)

biutifulBiutiful (2011)

Director:  Alejandro Inarritu
Screenplay:  Alejandro Inarritu, Armando Bo, Nicolas Giacabone
Cast: Javier Bardem, Maricel Alvarez, Hanaa Bouchaib, Guillermo Estrella, Eduard Fernandez

Director Alejandro Inarritu is a hot prospect in Hollywood these days.

His latest film, “The Revenant”, just nabbed a couple of Golden Globe Awards and is being heavily touted this Oscar season. His last movie, let us not forget, was the sublime “Birdman” and he is also responsible for another of my favourites, “Amores Perros”.

“Biutiful” was released in 2011 and was a finalist for an Academy Award in the Best Foreign Film category. It tells the story of Uxbal (Javier Bardem), a man eking out a living on the streets of Barcelona by helping find employment for illegal migrant workers. He also moonlights as a kind of “ghost whisperer”, settling the spirits of the dead and bringing comfort (most of the time) to the bereaved.

Uxbal is a man running out of time. A nagging complaint finally forces him to see a doctor and the examination turns up malignant tumors—Uxbal has a matter of months to live. But how does he go about getting his affairs in order, arranging for his young children’s care, when his job pays him so little (he accepts no fee for his spirit work) and his ex-wife (Maricel Alvarez) is a bipolar woman-child barely capable of seeing to her own needs?

Everyone is “Biutiful” is trapped in lives they did not seek, consigned to fates they do not deserve. Uxbal, his wife, the migrants who suffer exploitation, deprivation, imprisonment, all in the hope of one day gaining their freedom, their handlers (controlled by the Chinese mob)…a circle of predation and despair.

Director Inarritu brilliantly surrounds these narratives with layers of insight and brutal honesty–there is not a trace of treacle in evidence, not even during Uxbal’s final hours. We (as viewers) are spared no discomfort and “Biutiful” does not stoop for an instant to mawkish sentiment.

High marks, to everyone involved with this exemplary production.

ΩΩΩΩ  (out of 5)

About Cliff Burns

I'm a literary writer, specializing in slipstream/ alternative/surreal/science fiction. My influences include Philip K. Dick, Harlan Ellison, Samuel Beckett, Jorge Luis Borges, David Cronenberg, Rene Magritte, any artist who defies convention and busts open genres, attacking the status quo.
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