BiutifulFeature Film | Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu By John Wilson
A tragically beautiful and immensely dark exploration of mortality.
Alejandro González Iñárritu's first Spanish-language film since 2000's Amores Perros, Biutiful is a bleak meditation on mortality set in the suburbs of Barcelona. Javier Bardem is transcendent as Uxbal, a flawed, but dedicated, single father with the ability to commune with the recently deceased. Uxbal's profession parallels his supernatural ability, as he skirts the criminal underworld as a business medium between factions of illegal Chinese and Senegalese immigrants. A tragic hero, Uxbal is sympathetic to the plights of the workers while raising his two young children and attempting reconciliation with his impulsive and immature ex-wife, Marambra (Maricel Álvarez). After a visit to the doctor, Uxbal is forced to confront his own fleeting mortality, a task he finds surprisingly difficult considering his unique relationship with the dead. While Biutiful features striking imagery, a strong cast, and a hallucinatory score, the film does suffer from a relative lack of plot. Impressively, Iñárritu's genius framing creates a captivating, dreamlike mood that, coupled with Bardem's spellbinding performance, ultimately carries such a dark minimalist story. Though depressing themes are omnipresent, Biutiful is underscored with poignant beauty, as Uxbal's human compassion plays an equal hand in his downfall and redemption.