Dir: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Starring: Javier Bardem, Maricel Álvarez, Eduard Fernández, George Chibuikwem Chukwuma, Cheikh Ndiaye, Diaryatou Daff, Hanaa Bouchaib and Guillermo Estrella.
Going into Biutiful, I knew virtually nothing about it, my sole knowledge was that it had been nominated for Oscars (Best Foreign Language Film and Best Actor). Those accolades alone peaked my interest, as well as the duo of Alejandro González Iñárritu and Javier Bardem. I do like to go into films with as little knowledge as possible, and it usually works. In this case, I think it would actually be beneficial to know a little bit, because it can throw you for a loop.
The film introduces us to the main character of Uxbal (Javier Bardem) who lives in the underground of Barcelona, doing things that are less than admiral to get by. He has custody of his two children, who he strives to provide for. Their mother suffers from being bipolar and without treatment is abusive. Uxbal also apparently has a talent for communicating with the deceased, and earns extra from that. Things change for him when he is diagnosed with terminal cancer; he goes through all the stages until he finally accepts his fate.
This is a long film, clocking in at almost 2 and a half hours, it is a slow burning drama. The themes and emotions that are presented here are not easy to sit through; the fact that it is so drawn out is quite draining. Not to say this film is boring, it isn’t, it certainly keeps things interesting but it is quite a downer and sucks a lot out of its audience. It is not a happy film, but its aim is not meant to be a depressing piece either. The main character is one we feel sympathy for once we really see into his world, and the decision he makes aren’t always the best ones but within the life he has set for himself there isn’t much other choice. He has a big heart, and this gets the better of him many times.
There are some truly heartbreaking scenes, they are so hard hitting because Javier Bardem really experiences them himself. There’s a reason that he won and was nominated for many awards, this truly was the performance of 2010. The embodiment of his character reaches heights that so many actors can only dream of getting to. It hits hard and it really does take awhile after watching the film to recover from it. Bardem is an astonishing actor; he can become anything and make it seem 100% authentic. This role is the complete opposite of his Oscar winning role in No Country For Old Men, and it is just as good and if not perhaps better and more layered. The film is worth watching for him alone, he carries the film and has a great rapport with his co-stars. Maricel Álvarez had a difficult role to play but she managed it well, and some of her scenes with Bardem aren’t easy to watch. The actors who played their children were fantastic; Hanaa Bouchaib and Guillermo Estrella felt like seasoned performers.
Iñárritu is an interesting filmmaker, and sometimes feels like an acquired taste. If you have been a fan of his previous works, you should definitely not hesitate to seek this one out. I think even if you haven’t warmed to him you should still see this. It has some of his trademarks (specially the look and feel of the film, the closeness of lens to actor) but it feels a little more straightforward and structured. Over all it is a well-made film, with ticks in the all the boxes for solid script, cinematography, editing, acting and directing. When you sit down for this be prepared for an emotional ride.
The Australian DVD
Audio/Video: The video is a 16:9 widescreen presentation. Beautiful picture quality, it really is just a set away from the perfection of HD, a very nice job indeed. Audio is presented with Dolby Digital 5.1. Sound is fantastic, one of the better soundtracks you are likely to come across.
* Behind Biutiful: Director’s Flip notes
* Biutiful Crew
* Interviews with Cast
* Theatrical trailer
The extras here are quite solid, most importantly they are insightful. Worth checking out for sure, it was nice to have something to accompany the film, although a commentary would have been great. Highly recommended.
Thanks to Ben from MadMan for his support.