Biutiful (15)

Written and directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu
Screening at FACT from 28th January 2011

Reviewed by Colin Serjent

This is a compelling but bleak portrait of a man who has the odds heavily stacked against him in life.

Uxbal (Javier Bardem, who starred in No Country For Old Men) gives a highly impressive and charismatic performance as a street hustler, who operates in the gutter life of Barcelona.

At heart he is a decent man, searching for salvation amid the squalid environment he endures; his only real comfort being the love he shows for his two young children, who live with him, having separated from his mentally deranged wife.

Burdened with many problems - not least that he has been diagnosed with terminal cancer - he ekes out an existence, managing a group of drug selling Senegalese illegal immigrants and a couple of Chinese gangmasters, who house and exploit a bunch of Chinese people smuggled into Spain.

Barcelona is shown as being very far from the image usually portrayed. Apart from the glamour and high culture usually associated with the city, it is instead a grubby world of overcrowded ghettos, tacky strip clubs, small-time gangsters and corrupt cops.

One of the most profound points of the film - impressively directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu (21 Grams) and photographed impeccably by Rodrigo Prieto - is when Uxbal and his brother view the embalmed figure of their dead father, preserved as a twenty-year-old man.

The climax of Biutiful also conjures up the dream-like image of his father talking to Uxbal as he is now. A magical ending to a majestic film.

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