At times, it’s difficult to summarize your thoughts about a specific film. It isn’t because the film is necessarily so good or bad that it’s beyond words, but because you’re unsure how to feel about said film until the credits finally roll. Biutiful is such a film.
The film revolves around Uxbal, portrayed by Javier Bardem (No Country For Old Men) sporting a mullet, so expectations are already high. Uxbal has just been diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer, but isn’t ready to leave this world. His two children are still young and Uxbal feels that their mother, who’s more interested in partaking in promiscuous behavior while dealing with a bipolar disorder, isn’t fit to take care of their children. Meanwhile Uxbal supports his family by partnering with both the Chinese and African street merchants that are in the country illegally. Together they sell pirated movies and cheap knockoffs of clothing and accessories made by Chinese men, women, and children that live in a warehouse used as a sweatshop. To top it off, Uxbal has the ability to communicate with the dead and is called upon to help people who have recently passed to let go and move on to the other side. Although hesitant at first, Uxbal has every intention of getting his affairs in order, reconciling his marriage, and making sure his children have someone to take care of them after he’s gone. Unfortunately, things don’t always go as planned.
Biutiful, its spelling having a simple yet somewhat brilliant explanation, features a lot of symbolism that will go over viewers heads. It also is incredibly similar to Iñárritu’s previous works such as 21 Grams and Babel in both style and tone. The drama is beyond bleak and practically hopeless. The out of tune soundtrack, the rocks Uxbal gives to his children, and people clutching to the ceiling will leave many scratching their heads. Many ideas seem to be hinted at, but are never fully fleshed out like reflections and shadows moving out of sync from their source. However, the film is driven by Bardem’s emotionally draining, physical, and all around powerful performance.
The scene that really makes the entire film worthwhile is the scene in the Chinese warehouse right before Uxbal visits his brother’s strip club. It’s the most effective, long-lasting, and memorable scene in the film. In the same breath though, what was up with the sound? It was like it was purposely terrible at certain points in the film. At times, it seemed significant to showcase the sound of the characters’ heartbeats, but just felt sloppy the one or two other times it occurred. There were also quite a few memorable quotes in the film including, “It’s dangerous to trust a man who’s hungry.”
Biutiful is an unusual drama that is both confusing at times and ridiculously intriguing at others. A vigorously passionate performance by Javier Bardem may not be enough to save what is otherwise a sometimes mindboggling and hellacious journey through the eyes of what seems like the most unlucky man in the world. Even in comparison to his other works, Biutiful seems even more bleak and dreary than Iñárritu’s other works. What’s bizarre is that the film does give you a strange sense of hope. No matter how bad you think your life currently is or was, this film proves that it can always be worse even if the presentation is more than a little mentally and emotionally exhausting. It’s also interesting to note that even though the film leans more to the bizarre side while being downright depressing, it does make a long-lasting impression and sticks with you as you contemplate scenes and occurrences in the film days after you’ve seen it.
Sources: imdb.com, comingsoon.net, iwatchstuff.com