Release date: October 22, 2010
Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Screenplay by: Alejandro González Iñárritu, Armando Bo, Nicolás Giacobone
Cast: Javier Bardem, Maricel Álvarez, Hanaa Bouchaib, Guillermo Estrella, Eduard Fernández, Cheikh Ndiaye, Diaryatou Daff, Cheng Tai Shen, Luo Jin, Lang Sofia Lin
Premiered during the Cannes Film Festival 2010, Biutiful is a drama film directed by Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu (Amores Perros, Babel) and starring Academy Award winner Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men) as the film’s main character.
Biutiful follows Uxbal (Bardem), a single father who has a bright and dark side. Life isn’t easy for Uxbal as he lives in the gritty side of Barcelona raising his children Ana (Bouchaib) and Mateo (Estrella), while struggling to keep a healthy relationship with their mother Marambra (Álvarez), who suffers from bipolar disorder. To support his children financially, Uxbal gets involved in illegal criminal activities involving undocumented immigrants alongside his impulsive brother Tito (Fernández) and crime boss Hai (Tai Shen).
Uxbal’s life changes for the worse when he is diagnosed with terminal cancer and only has a couple of months left to live, which sets him up to fight for his life and arrange his affairs in order before it’s too late.
“¿Cómo se escribe Beautiful?” // How do you spell Beautiful?
“Como suena. Bi-u-ti-ful.” // As it sounds. Bi-u-ti-ful.
Unlike Iñárritu’s previous films, Biutiful is pretty much a one-story film and Iñárritu doesn’t count with Guillermo Arriaga, who previously collaborated with him as a screenwriter in past films. The problem with Biutiful, other than it feeling kind of lengthy to watch and the sound editing aspects – which got kind of annoying at times, is that Biutiful does gets sidetracked during moments, most notably with the gay storyline involving Hai and his business associate Liwei (Jin), as well as wondering about the fate of a stranded Senegalese mother (Daff) after her husband (Ndiaye) – who worked for Uxbal – is deported. Both storylines intend to showcase exploitation and slavery in underground Europe, but they really don’t amount much to Uxbal’s main story. Plus, it makes Iñárritu looking like he can’t help himself to avoid working a straight narrative line.
Despite that, Biutiful is well-crafted for the most part and the best part of the film is pretty much Javier Bardem’s amazing performance as Uxbal. He’s one of the world’s best actors today, but his mournful facial expressions here, along with Iñárritu’s gritty, depressing direction and the way the film is shot, can make audiences connect with Uxbal with ease and feel for him as his health worsens. Another actress to look out for is Maricel Álvarez, whose character was a pretty good scene-stealer in the film when she appeared and it makes you wish there was a bit more of time invested in Uxbal and Marambra’s relationship.
Biutiful may not boast the same quality when compared to Iñárritu’s previous films, but the film is still pretty good to watch on its own thanks to Bardem’s performance. Biutifully depressing, but worth the watch at least once.
Among the film’s credits, producers include Alfonso Cuarón (Children of Men) and Guillermo Del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth), Gustavo Santaolalla is involved with the film’s music and Rodrigo Prieto (Brokeback Mountain) is involved with the cinematography.