It’s no shame to admit to have been drawn to a film for no reason other than its main protagonist. In Biutiful that man is Javier Bardem, who goes back to his roots after his recent American exploits in Vicky Cristina Barcelona and the Coen Brothers’s No Country for Old Men. In Alejandro González Iñárritu’s fourth outing as director, Javier Bardem plays Uxbal, a strong and committed father whose life is lacking any sort of upward direction.
After what could be considered a mid-life crisis of the worst kind, Uxbal is diagnosed with cancer. He sees this as an opportunity for redemption and he attempts to right his wrongs and give his life some purpose before it is taken away from him.
After Babel, Amores Perros and the superb 21 Grams, it’s not surprising to find out that Biutiful’s content is darker than dark. Much has been made of Bardem’s performance, and whilst the film is acted beautifully, it’s Iñárritu’s hand-held direction that stands out. The dark subject matter and various themes explored may put off some film enthusiasts, but Biutiful deserves to be recognised as a continuation of a director’s incredible hot streak, even though it won’t be.
Director Alejandro González Iñárritu’s described the film as his ‘most optimistic, Uxbal’s character is full of light’. Biutiful is about a man’s struggle to survive. The people surrounding him matter, but when it comes down to it, this is Bardem’s movie. Grim and grisly as it may be it offers some sort of hope to those who are desperate to make a change in their lives.
Best performance: Javier Bardem.