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A 2011 movie directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu

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A Marathon of Despair, Self-Loathing And Remorse Of A Dying Man...

  • Jan 30, 2011
Films that depict a bleak, real and depressing story have always held an attraction to me. Not exactly sure as to why, but it seems like I may not be the only one since director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s second feature film after “Babel” and his first Spanish language directed film since Amores Perros has been nominated in the Best Foreign Language film category in 2011’s Academy awards. “Biutiful” is a film about a man who is dying from cancer and has only several months to get his affairs together. Javier Bardem (No Country For Old Men) has received several best actor nominations for his performance in this film. The title refers to the orthographical spelling in Spanish of the English word “beautiful” as it would sound to native Spanish speakers.

Uxbal (Javier Bardem) is a father for two kids who has been separated from his manic wife (Marciel Alvarez) and he struggles to make ends meet by taking on a variety of scrap jobs and hustles in the streets of Barcelona. He works with a couple of sweat shops and bootlegging operations headed up by Hai (Taisheng Cheng) and he also does a little ghost whispering on the side, something he does quite well because of his condition. Uxbal tries to keep a certain moral code despite his questionable activities exploiting illegal workers, he befriends a few African immigrants and he is suffering from a terminal illness. He has to push himself to make enough money for his kids, but his issues of self-loathing, attempts at marital reconciliation and his deteriorating health is making things harder for Uxbal…

                        Javier Bardem as Uxbal in "Biutiful."

                        Javier Bardem as Uxbal and Hanaa Bouchaib as Ana in "Biutiful."

“Biutiful” is a film that appears linear compared to the intertwining tales of “Babel” and the crisscrossing style of “21 Grams” that has been the habit of director Inarritu in his past films. The script co-written by the director spends less time trying to portray a melancholic woe and instead concentrates on the world that a dying, desperate man moves around in. This world is filthy, dirty, and it can be  ruthless. Uxbal is no saint, nor is he trying to be one, he lives in a dilapidated apartment, his bi-polar wife is sleeping around, and his main focus is trying to keep a sense of decency around a grim world that doesn’t give advantage to those with less luck than others. The film is a 150-minute marathon of despair, and it is filled with reflection, some abstract symbolisms, scenes of mass murder and displays of despair and guilt. “Biutiful” is not an easy film to watch as it brings its viewer to its themes of mortality. It forces the viewer to look for its meaning around the mucky world of remorse and self-loathing.



Sometimes, people do things because they want to, and sometimes people do things because they need to. Such are the themes brought forth by this film. Uxbal is in a world of ‘needs to’ and he has no choice but to go with what he has. He takes care of business, while in his mind, he believes that he is helping these illegal immigrants find work for a cut. While the subject of death and dying is heavy within the film, instead of taking the viewer on a ride of Uxbal’s illness, it brings the world around him into exposition. He takes care of paying off cops, tries to find illegal Chinese workers a better gig, and he does genuinely talk to the dead. Uxbal’s ability to see dead people and speak to them may not be properly defined, but it is a known fact that dying people can have a much stronger link to the spirit world.

His wife Marambra (excellently played by Alvarez) is someone who ‘wants to’, but her insecurities and manic issues prevent her from achieving her wants. She wants to be faithful and to be a good mother, but her past habits and lifestyle are difficult to abandon, Marambra is a woman suffering from bipolar disorder. Uxbal and Marambra are very much in love, but their situation may not allow them much time to stay in love. Now for a film like this to succeed, the lead actor would have to be able to come out with a stunning performance. Bardem passes with flying colors, his scenes of agony and guilt prove to be the film’s best aces. Uxbal is a man of mourning, he mourns for himself and for his family, Bardem comes out as someone with dedication in his performance. There is a lot of heart and soul in his character, Uxbal tries to help out these immigrants and he struggles to be a good father. Sometimes he may seem to be a hypocrite, as he tries to do right but he often falls into something disastrous. Bardem commands the film with such skill that it is easy to feel his emotions.


Now please do not take my next comments to be negative, but I will have to admit that ”Biutiful” may prove to be alienating and maybe even taxing to the casual movie watcher. I liked the film, but the pacing can prove to be challenging, and the themes don’t make it easy; some people will no doubt feel that the film may be a little stuffy. There were times that I felt that some scenes were bordering on overkill (such as Hai’s homosexual secrets and the subplot with an African immigrant) since they hardly went anywhere. Uxbal could’ve done well even without those subplots, but I suppose they were necessary to flesh out Uxbal’s depressing world. The direction also doesn’t make it easy with some scenes slumping down at a slow pace, but at times I thought the editing may have been executed a bit cluttered.

The film is still wonderful to look at though, cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto transforms the slums of Spain into scenes resembling a painting in a book, so the characters can do their emotions against its backdrop. The film also has a lot of nudity and some suggestive themes so please take care of present company. The film also takes care to portray its characters with care, and I appreciated the fact the film is Bi-lingual in Chinese and Spanish languages.

“Biutuiful” is not a perfect film, but it does do what it was supposed to do. Bring forth a portrait of a dying man, who does what he needs to because he has to. Uxbal is the kind of character who knows the consequences his actions, but he has no choice but to make things work; to the best of his own ability and under a questionable moral code.

Timid Recommendation, this is NOT a film for everybody [4- Out of 5 Stars]

Poster art for "Biutiful."  Poster art for "Biutiful."

A Marathon of Despair, Self-Loathing And Remorse Of A Dying Man...

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February 10, 2011
Probably won't see this one...just not my style. Nice review, though!
February 11, 2011
thanks for the read, Adri. Sorry for the late reply, I've been a little under the weather lately...
February 22, 2011
It's ok. Me as well! (hugs)
February 02, 2011
Now, I'm mad. I left you compliments and comments on this and they didn't go through. WTF?! I can't remember what it was I said at this point either.
February 02, 2011
let's see the ring thing said: "stop running script"? I had that issue before so I refreshed the page...you might want to report it seeing as it isn't just me and Alex experiencing it...
February 02, 2011
Yeah, I had it happen with one of Karen's reviews too.
January 30, 2011
Sounds great, why have I not heard of this?
January 30, 2011
I am looking into seeing the independent and foreign films that have been nominated in the academies....
January 30, 2011
You might want to read another review on this film by Pandolfi (see below); together we may paint a better picture of the film.
January 30, 2011
"The script co-written by the director spends less time trying to portray a melancholic woe and instead concentrates on the world that a dying, desperate man moves around in." Thank you for saying this. You have pinpointed the exact reason why I liked this movie so much more than "Babel." This time around, he's more invested in the humanity of his characters than in trying to depress the audience at every turn.
January 30, 2011
I agree about the humanity of the characters and the way it became heartbreaking felt more grounded and simple but more real. I liked his other films, most notably 21 GRAMS, but this was a different flavor; I liked it. I see this film with enormous potential and at the same time, I worry that I think that most viewers may not like it. The actress who played Bardem's wife was also very impressive in her portrayal.
More Biutiful reviews
review by . June 07, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
***1/2 out of ****     "Biutiful", the new film from Spanish director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, plays out as some kind of test. A test of patience, a test of morality, or be it a test of our ability to perceive a film; "Biutiful" never stops testing in its decently lengthy running time. It's as ambitious and bold as any other Inarritu feature, and about as good as one too. Inarritu has made one of his best films yet with "Biutiful", which is as dreary as modern movies get.   &n …
review by . February 17, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
This movie isn't intended for people who plan to see Just Go With It or The Eagle. This movie is entrenched with misery and tragedy and followed by death. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu leaves nothing to chance in his effort to display tragedy of the human spirit. Everything about this movie from the characters to the environment is falling apart and there is little to do but sit there and be weighted down by people just trying to survive.   Inarritu tells the story of …
review by . January 29, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Star Rating:         In spite of the cumbersome details, Alejandro González Iñárritu's Biutiful is essentially the story of a man who must put his affairs in order before he dies. His name is Uxbal (Oscar nominee Javier Bardem), and he has been diagnosed with advanced-stage cancer, presumably of the prostate. He's a Barcelona career criminal, acting as an intermediary between the underworld and a sweatshop that produces phony designer handbags …
Quick Tip by . February 13, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
In case anyone wanted a little more insight into how the film was made, here is a link to my interview with Biutiful's beautiful star, Javier Bardem ... http://blacksheepreviews.blogspot.com/2011/0...iews-javier-bardem.html
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About this movie


  • Opened January 28, 2011 | Runtime:2 hr. 27 min.
  • R
    For disturbing images, language, some sexual content, nudity and drug use
  • A man tries to reconcile his desire to be good with his lawless ways in this dark drama from Mexican auteur Alejandro González Iñárritu. Uxbal (Javier Bardem) is a man with a bright side and a dark side. Uxbal is a caring father but Uxbal is also a criminal who oversees a small underground empire alongside fellow crime boss Hai (Taisheng Cheng) and Uxbal's impulsive brother, Tito (Eduard Fernández). Uxbal's dealings range from drugs to construction, but unlike his partners in crime, he tries to treat those around him with dignity even as he trades in human misery. Uxbal's precarious world begins to collapse when he's diagnosed with a serious illness and told he has only a few weeks left to live; he tries to put his affairs in order in the time he has left, but realizes that few around him have any sense of responsibility.
  • Cast: Javier Bardem, Maricel Álvarez, Eduard Fernández, Diarytou Daff, Cheng Taishen
  • Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu
  • Genres: Psychological DramaDramaFamily Drama
  • Poster art for "Biutiful."
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