Biutiful Movie Review

While this gentle drama about a man trying to prepare his family for his own death is plaintive and hopeful, the road to the end is both too long and too packed with distracting sidestories.

Even before his doctor tells him he has terminal cancer, Uxbal (Bardem) is struggling to manage a team of illegal African immigrants who sell fake designer products made by illegal Chinese immigrants in secret factories. He does this to care for his young children (Bouchaib and Estrella), while his bipolar ex Marambra (Alvarez) works as a prostitute. Meanwhile, Uxbal and his brother Tito (Fernandez) are selling the burial plot of the father they never knew. But this only stirs Uxbal's emotions even further.

While the premise sounds depressing, Inarritu refuses to wallow in misery, focussing on complex relationships and dark irony. It's shot with a striking visual style that blends gritty photography with subtle, chilling effects. And Bardem's performance is full of life. His interaction with other characters is complicated and revealing, and as we watch him grow more haggard and stressed, he somehow develops more of an internal spark, even if it's buried deep inside.

Along the way, strong side stories emerge. A Chinese boss (Cheng) is being manipulated by his gay assistant (Luo). A Senegalese couple (Ndiaye and Daff) is threatened by legal issues. There are also dirty cops and chaotic police raids, plus a preoccupation with death, since one of Uxbal's hidden talents is an ability to communicate beyond the grave. But all of this detracts from Uxbal's already wrenching situation, because the immigration theme threatens to swamp the more intimate, emotional story as the film goes on and on.

By contrast, the scenes of Uxbal trying to prepare his family for the future are earthy, funny and often very touching. We can understand Uxbal's paralysing fear of telling anyone about his illness; not only is there never a good time to deliver this news, but because of Maramba's illness and his own dodgy business the children's future isn't looking very bright. But as he finds inner peace, we see hope for them too.

Cast & Crew

Starring : , , Hanaa Bouchaib, Guillermo Estrella, Eduard Fernandez, Cheikh Ndiaye, Diaryatou Daff, Cheng Taisheng


Biutiful Rating

" Good "

Rating: 15, 2011


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