Biutiful (15)

Film

Drama

795biutiful

Time Out rating:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>4</span>/5

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<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>4</span>/5
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Time Out says

Tue Jan 25 2011

Cannes Film Festival juries may have made some wobbly decisions over the years, but giving Javier Bardem the Best Actor award for his career-best turn as a backstreet Barcelona operator confronting a sea of troubles while doing his best for his kids isn’t one of them.

Bardem plays Uxbal, a grafter who shuttles between corrupt police, Chinese sweatshop owners and illegal African street hawkers. He brings comfort to the bereaved by passing on messages from the deceased, while at the same time coping with his estranged wife’s bipolar disorder and facing the shadow of serious illness himself.

The role offers Bardem innumerable chances to chew the scenery. Instead, his work is a model of restraint: he invests the role with an affecting, sad-eyed dignity that keeps the story grounded. Attempting to embody the powerful idea that one person can really make a difference is no mean challenge, since there’s a danger of coming across like some empty symbol – but Bardem’s Uxbal is a man, brave and strong, hurting and vulnerable.

Actually, it’s just as well that Bardem is so effective, since the movie needs a strong lead to give its freeform theatrics a controlling pulse: can one film contain post-globalisation liberal hand-wringing, I-see-dead-people spirituality, kids fearing for their daddy’s health, gay villains and manic-depressive emotional hyper-dynamics?

Granted, it sounds a mess, and coming after the disappointments of ‘21 Grams’ and the dreadful ‘Babel’ from Mexican maverick Alejandro González Iñárritu, one might be forgiven for being a little suspicious. Having parted ways with regular writer, Guillermo Arriaga, whose own 2008 project ‘The Burning Plain’ was marred by overwrought contrivance, Iñárritu must have felt ‘Biutiful’ was a make-or-break project for him to establish his creative identity, which is why the sheer absence of caution is disarming and captivating.

This is not a film for ascetic souls attuned to buttoned-down restraint. Its washed-out colours turn the city of Gaudí into a kind of purgatory, there’s an amazingly jarring score from Gustavo Santaolalla and the plot is a pile-up of Job-like tribulations. The exposed nerve endings, though, are apt for a story that tackles the question of whether the sufferings of the world cause us to fold in on ourselves or reach out.

The film asks whether the idea of ‘good’ is an irrelevance or a choice driven by some calling from within? Since even its title is drawn from a child’s innocent misspelling, it’s best not to expect ‘Biutiful’ to offer a rigorous thematic workout for these issues: this is a film assembled on instinct rather than reflection.

Like a piece of contemporary music where a whole array of discordant elements evoke a gut response easier to experience than explain (think Birtwistle, Xenakis, Carter), Iñárritu’s film won’t work for everyone. Yet, it offers consolation that, in a world of numbing, overwhelming anguish, human feeling is still possible. It’s a reminder that compassion isn’t always a rational decision, but an uncontrollable emotion. What can I say? I cried.
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Release details

Rated:

15

UK release:

Fri Jan 28, 2011

Duration:

138 mins

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<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>0</span>/5

Average User Rating

4.2 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:10
  • 4 star:4
  • 3 star:2
  • 2 star:1
  • 1 star:0
LiveReviews|27
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RM

I have never posted on a film before. I felt i had to because this is an important film to assess because it deals with many things that are not usually addressed in film in such a stark way. I also love films that look into the father / children relationship. But im sorry to say, this film isn't a masterpiece. with all respect to the makers and actors involved, i think this it is probably just a very gritty portrayal of a very sad life in a very bleak part of Barcelona. I dont think there is really any development of the relationship between the main character and people in his life. there is a clever start and end to the film, which is dreamlike and kind of captures someone's death and the way the spirit might connect to someone elses upon passing. but the bulk of the film is a documentary about how a life can spiral downwards. it is just like watching a drug addict's last few weeks. i would honestly say this film this film should probably be skipped.

nitascreename

If you watch the ige return scene in slomo on the dvd the shadowy figure looks like it is uxbal himself - just as the figure on the ceiling was. Since both kids are not in the final scene and uxbal has a history of speaking for the deceased his daughter may not have been there either. It makes for quite a haunting ending to the film for sure – no matter which way you decide.

nitascreename

If you watch the ige return scene in slomo on the dvd the shadowy figure looks like it is uxbal himself - just as the figure on the ceiling was. Since both kids are not in the final scene and uxbal has a history of speaking for the deceased his daughter may not have been there either. It makes for quite a haunting ending to the film for sure – no matter which way you decide.

Dan

Truly great. I'm still amazed at what it achieves. It will stand the test of time and I can't believe there will be a better film released this year.

Dan

Truly great. I'm still amazed at what it achieves. It will stand the test of time and I can't believe there will be a better film released this year.

HollandMovierLover

I saw this movie a couple of weeks ago in the local cinema and purely by chance I saw Ken Loach's **It's a free world** two weeks ago on the Belgian National Television and with due respect to the makers and the whole team of Biutiful, I must say that I was personally much more impressed with Ken Loach's film (both films dealt with the issue of illegal immigration in Spain and the UK respectively) which was never released in the Netherlands as far as I know. By the way, if you ask me, shouldn't Mark Wahlberg and not Javier Bardem be getting the Best Actor nomination last January (for his role in The Fighter)? I saw The Figher last week and his role certainly impressed me much more than Javier Bardem did in Biutiful. Javier Bardem was very good in a couple of other movies but his performance in Biutiful was just OK when compared to some of his outstanding roles in previous movies.

Nancy

Howdy: that's why I like Gonzalez Inarritu because it takes the opportunity to send a message out of context but very powerful, for me he wanted to say that even Chinesse people are known for being very conservative in their ways, they do suffer from repression in their sexuality, so the rest of the world and we should accept that reality and respect them : ) Beautiful movie in many ways, I think we all want to believe Ige came back....I was crying and thinking inside "pls don't go!!!...lol ...I dont care if they don't win an Oscar...who cares the Oscars when you know this movie is great!!

Nancy

Howdy: that's why I like Gonzalez Inarritu because it takes the opportunity to send a message out of context but very powerful, for me he wanted to say that even Chinesse people are known for being very conservative in their ways, they do suffer from repression in their sexuality, so the rest of the world and we should accept that reality and respect them : ) Beautiful movie in many ways, I think we all want to believe Ige came back....I was crying and thinking inside "pls don't go!!!...lol ...I dont care if they don't win an Oscar...who cares the Oscars when you know this movie is great!!

evan

I can't remember a film that I loved so much being so incredibly difficult to watch. About half-way through I was minutes from walking out. It was in the middle of the day and I couldn't see the point of being inside watching such an unrelentingly depressing film. But then something quite interesting happened and in a short while I was glued to my seat. I left thinking that this was an astounding, brave film. It's incredible that it was made considering how grueling it it to watch. And Bardem is simply amazing.

evan

I can't remember a film that I loved so much being so incredibly difficult to watch. About half-way through I was minutes from walking out. It was in the middle of the day and I couldn't see the point of being inside watching such an unrelentingly depressing film. But then something quite interesting happened and in a short while I was glued to my seat. I left thinking that this was an astounding, brave film. It's incredible that it was made considering how grueling it it to watch. And Bardem is simply amazing.

JS

Superb, gets all five stars from me. Emotionally overwhelming and truly sad. How brave to make a film like this and in this way. Great performances from the whole cast, but Bardem is 'stand-out' and will thoroughly deserve Oscar if he gets it. Juxtaposition of the Barcelona we know and love with the seedy underside we never see is brilliantly portrayed. Can't get this film out of mind.

JS

Superb, gets all five stars from me. Emotionally overwhelming and truly sad. How brave to make a film like this and in this way. Great performances from the whole cast, but Bardem is 'stand-out' and will thoroughly deserve Oscar if he gets it. Juxtaposition of the Barcelona we know and love with the seedy underside we never see is brilliantly portrayed. Can't get this film out of mind.

Bart

Just one correction to the review: this triumphant movie's title is not simply a child's innocent misspelling. Early in the movie Mateo asks his Father how to spell “beautiful�, and Uxbal, who can never pay full attention at this stage of the film, somewhat deflects the question with, "It's spelled like it sounds". It is also quite possible he doesn’t know how to spell it himself. The mistake gets passed on to Mateo’s school work just like all the inheritances and bequests of the film get passed on and in some way published, made public. This moment therefore makes for a core event of a film filled with core events: it is the epitome of imperfect inheritance, half intended, half understood, from imperfect parents, especially this imperfect father to his son. But this very imperfection creates a precious complexity that will be of lasting value—a real diamond, as Uxbal’s daughter marvels, touching her mother’s discarded wedding ring. . As a psychological document this film is remarkable and wise: like Uxbal's bi-polar wife, no one is simply anything or anyone. As a social document it is peerless, dramatizing the fatuousness of reductive class politics, Like African slavery, no exploitation can take place without some complicity of some members of the exploited class. This film lets no one off the hook. And thereby it embraces us all. Like Ikiru, Kurosawa’s equally monumental film organized around the life of a dying man’s life, Biutiful celebrates life in a dying world.

Bart

Just one correction to the review: this triumphant movie's title is not simply a child's innocent misspelling. Early in the movie Mateo asks his Father how to spell “beautiful�, and Uxbal, who can never pay full attention at this stage of the film, somewhat deflects the question with, "It's spelled like it sounds". It is also quite possible he doesn’t know how to spell it himself. The mistake gets passed on to Mateo’s school work just like all the inheritances and bequests of the film get passed on and in some way published, made public. This moment therefore makes for a core event of a film filled with core events: it is the epitome of imperfect inheritance, half intended, half understood, from imperfect parents, especially this imperfect father to his son. But this very imperfection creates a precious complexity that will be of lasting value—a real diamond, as Uxbal’s daughter marvels, touching her mother’s discarded wedding ring. . As a psychological document this film is remarkable and wise: like Uxbal's bi-polar wife, no one is simply anything or anyone. As a social document it is peerless, dramatizing the fatuousness of reductive class politics, Like African slavery, no exploitation can take place without some complicity of some members of the exploited class. This film lets no one off the hook. And thereby it embraces us all. Like Ikiru, Kurosawa’s equally monumental film organized around the life of a dying man’s life, Biutiful celebrates life in a dying world.

NYdesigner

This movie had two effects on me. It made me happy my life was not as fu**ed up as Alejandro's, and it also made me incredibly sad about the state of the working class and immigrants in cities worldwide. This is not just in Barcelona. This is everywhere. While this is a movie, it represents the real struggles of millions who live and labor in unsafe conditions worldwide. The movie makes you want to help those in similar circumstances in some way, but you don't know how you can do it in the most meaningful way right now....And, yes, prepare to cry...and to think about it for hours afterward....if not days....

NYdesigner

This movie had two effects on me. It made me happy my life was not as fu**ed up as Alejandro's, and it also made me incredibly sad about the state of the working class and immigrants in cities worldwide. This is not just in Barcelona. This is everywhere. While this is a movie, it represents the real struggles of millions who live and labor in unsafe conditions worldwide. The movie makes you want to help those in similar circumstances in some way, but you don't know how you can do it in the most meaningful way right now....And, yes, prepare to cry...and to think about it for hours afterward....if not days....

Gerardo C

I think it might be Alejandro's best movie so far, although I don't know how can Amores Perros be any less. I loved watching it in Mexico City the first time and in San Francisco just last weekend. I can't wait to watch it and cry again. It's a fantastic movie; however, Hollywood fans might be disappointed. Kudos kudos kudos.

Gerardo C

I think it might be Alejandro's best movie so far, although I don't know how can Amores Perros be any less. I loved watching it in Mexico City the first time and in San Francisco just last weekend. I can't wait to watch it and cry again. It's a fantastic movie; however, Hollywood fans might be disappointed. Kudos kudos kudos.

Jenny

This is a difficult film to watch - makes for very uncomfortable viewing and is pretty depressing giving a real insight into the miserable existence and exploitation of illegal immigrants, but Javier Bardem is superb in the role and I am convinced will get the Oscar for best actor as a result. I wouldn't want to sit through it again and also cried, but this is a film which will stay with me for a long time.

Mike

A very believable drama – occasionally edge of seat stuff. I enjoyed it, but probably wouldn’t see it again. Three (fairly generous) stars.

ED

Carol - Ige thought about leaving but came back. Uxbal saw himself on the ceiling - The chinese man killed his younger lover/partner. Very hard to watch emotional film but quite an amazing performance by Bardem that surely cements him as one of the best actors around.

ED

Carol - Ige thought about leaving but came back. Uxbal saw himself on the ceiling - The chinese man killed his younger lover/partner. Very hard to watch emotional film but quite an amazing performance by Bardem that surely cements him as one of the best actors around.

sookie

Without Bardem this would be a very different film - he puts in an astounding performance. I cried too.

Azulmarino

The Senegalese were selling drugs along with bags ... It was mentioned they were "camellos" as a side line. Very good film, somewhat depressing and hard to watch , but beautifully shot , showing the misery of illegal immigrants.