{2jtab: Movie Review}

Biutiful Movie Review


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4 stars

Alejandro González Iñárritu is on roll. In just a few short years, he’s gone from just a fresh young face on the burgeoning Mexican filmmaking scene, to an old guard captain who, along with his paisanos Guillermo del Toro and Alfonso Cuarón, helped reinvigorate the country’s film industry in the early 00’s. His 2000 breakout film, Amores Perros demonstrated the director’s brilliant mind for gritty, warts-and-all filmmaking. With 21 Grams and Babel he also put on display his fascinating ability to explore simultaneous storylines and criss-crossing narratives while also pinning those stories down with genuine human emotion and real-world purpose. But at the heart of all of his films is an affinity for showing the darker side of the human condition. And that’s certainly the case with Biutiful, a searing and often morose contemplation on living and dying.

Perhaps Iñárritu’s biggest weapon for punching through the sometimes-overwhelming stench of darkness is one hell of a big gun in Javier Bardem who, even in his portrayal of a man in the latter stages of prostate cancer, is sometimes the brightest thing on the screen. Bardem is Uxbal, a struggling dad trying to support his two children in the overrun Barrio Chino neighborhood of Barcelona, Spain.

An odd assortment of jobs, from running an operation of illegal Chinese immigrants that makes and sells knockoff designer bags, to accepting money to speak with the dead, barely keeps Uxbal on his feet. That is until his bipolar ex-wife (newcomer Maricel Álvarez) occasionally shows back up in his life to knock him down again. He’s a reasonably caring man as he does nearly everything he can to help those around him despite his compromised level of energy due to debilitating illness. He’s a great father to his two children, and he treats his day laborers as if they are an extension of his own family. And the wife of one of his Senegalese street peddlers, who is facing deportation after a recent police raid, needs assistance so he provides money and living space.

But even though his heart is in the right place, Uxbal’s actions often betray his better intentions. When a particular decision to improve the comfort of his throng of migrant workers turns deadly, the follow-up actions of Uxbal and his colleagues are of less than genuine care and concern. But he nonetheless mourns their loss and bears the weight of responsibility on his own faltering shoulders. Uxbal is kind of like the Tony Soprano of Barcelona: a friendly, cuddly everybody’s man on the inside, but a bumbling dolt whose actions never seem to quite work out as planned on the outside.

Beyond the selection of Bardem as the film’s lead, one of Iñárittu’s biggest accomplishments with the Spanish language Biutiful, as well as that of his co-screenwriter’s Armando Bo and Nicolás Giacobone, is the film’s unwillingness to allow viewers to judge Uxbal for his sometimes-contentious actions or feel pity towards him because of his illness. Iñárritu’s total immersion of his characters – and subsequently the viewer - into the seedy Barcelona under class makes us realize he’s just a byproduct of circumstance… a normal person facing a very tough experience. Uxbal’s constant attention to the needs of his family and children makes us care for him even though we don’t always the like the choices he makes. That’s a difficult task for filmmakers to pull off, but because Iñárittu and Bardem are successful, so is the film.

Some viewers may find themselves a bit down in the dumps at the overwhelming despair and relentless anguish that permeates Biutiful. Its only real light can be found in Bardem’s performance so don’t expect a happy ending… or much happiness at all for that matter. But if able to dig beneath the grunge and grime of the filthy streets of Barcelona (as well as the maddeningly gloomy mind of Iñárittu), you’re likely to find a bright, shining soul slicing through the shadows in the persona of a father named Uxbal. Biutiful is not one of the year’s five best films, but Bardem’s performance may very well be.

{2jtab: Film Details}

Biutiful Movie Review

MPAA Rating: R for disturbing images, language, some sexual content, nudity and drug use.
Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu
: Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu; Armando Bo
Cast: Javier Bardem; Guillermo Estrella; Maricel Álvarez;
Genre: Foreign | Drama
Memorable Movie Quote: "Sometimes fate is like a small sandstorm. It keeps changing directions."
Release Date: December 31, 2010.
Blu-ray Release Date:
This title not yet on BD/Blu-ray.

Synopsis: Biutiful is a love story between a father and his children. This is the journey of Uxbal, a conflicted man who struggles to reconcile fatherhood, love, spirituality, crime, guilt and mortality amidst the dangerous underworld of modern Barcelona. His livelihood is earned out of bounds, his sacrifices for his children know no bounds. Like life itself, this is a circular tale that ends where it begins. As fate encircles him and thresholds are crossed, a dim, redemptive road brightens, illuminating the inheritances bestowed from father to child, and the paternal guiding hand that navigates life's corridors, whether bright, bad - or biutiful.

{2jtab: DVD/Blu-ray Review}

Component Grades

Blu-ray Disc
4 stars

3 Stars

Blu-ray Experience
3.5 stars


Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - May 31, 2011
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
: English SDH, Spanish
Audio: Spanish: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD)



  • None

Special Features:

  • Behind Biutiful: Director's Flip Notes (HD; 21:42)
  • Biutiful Crew (HD; 4:02)
  • Interviews (1080i; 8:17)

{2jtab: Trailer}