Biutiful (2010)

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 PerrosBabel) 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.

Rating: ★★★½☆ 


YAM Magazine contributor, has a B. Sc. degree in Science/Pharmacy and is a very lazy person.

13 Responses

  1. Juan Barquin says:

    I feel like I would have honestly enjoyed this so much better if I could have hopped into an editing room and removed a good forty minutes of unnecessary scenes. I hate using the word, but a lot of the the scenes felt – by the true meaning of the word – pretentious.

    I loved the focus on Uxbal’s life, and Bardem’s performance was marvelous, but I felt like the first hour and a half has such little focus on him and his relationships that you get bored and don’t end up caring as much as you should about his characters fate. I feel like the other characters could have used their own feature length film instead of bumping up the time on this one for absolutely no reason.

    I walked out feeling unimpressed as hell. Then again, the three women behind me in the theater were crying and discussing how “intense” the film was and how it “never let up” so maybe I’m just bitter and heartless lol

    • Rodrigo says:

      @Juan Barquin, I could see your point on cutting a few minutes given the lengthy feel Biutiful has.

      Were you unimpressed with Biutiful because you compared it to his past films (Perros, Grams & Babel) and you consider those as far superior films?

      • amy says:

        @Rodrigo, I didn’t enjoy 21 Grams all that much either. LOL I can speak for Babel, though. Babel kept me on edge, especially on the Adriana Barraza storyline… because I’m just like that. I stress out over such things like crossing migration, it’s one of my constant nightmares.

  2. Julyssa says:

    I was supposed to see this during the Sthlm Film Festival but I fell asleep and missed it. Then I was supposed to see it at the cinema but I missed it because I felt I wouldn’t be able to watch it.
    At that time I was very sensitive and I knew that the combination of Bardem and Iñarritu would ttly destroy me. I think I’m a litte more stable today so I think I will watch it. It is number one on my to-watch list after all.

  3. i adored this movie. thought this was one of the better movies i saw last year. it’s really interesting that folks keep on bringin up the varied storylines. i think that’s what make innaritu’s movie so much more beautiful. that is his style. i loved it.

    • Rodrigo says:

      @Candice Frederick, Among 2010 films, I enjoyed The Fighter the most. Sure you might disagree with me on that. But yes, Biutiful is great.

      I brought the point of the varied storylines since Iñárritu stated that the film would be a 1-story direction. Yet, Biutiful takes some detours – which I don’t mind that much, but it doesn’t really add to Uxbal’s story yet it enhances how fucked up illegal immigrants have it on Europe.

      I thought the gay storyline between the chinese dudes came across as something random. At least the storyline with Ige (african mom) had a bit more to do with Uxbal since he dealt with her husband.

  4. amy says:

    You know what scene floored me the most? That scene when they realized what happened with the heaters. It depressed me like no other scene, and it was a pretty depressing movie overall.

    • Rodrigo says:

      @amy, Oh, that scene. My reaction to that was pretty much “Goddamn!” and the audience did quite the gasp for that very scene, probably feeling more sad for them than Uxbal’s health worsening.

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