Biutiful (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner26/01/2011

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 138 mins

Impressively directed and superbly written, this is a beautifully shot, powerfully emotional drama with a terrific central performance from Javier Bardem.

What's it all about?
Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, Biutiful is set in a run-down neighbourhood of present-day Barcelona and stars Javier Bardem as Uxbal, a remarkably busy hustler who divides his time between running drug dealers on the local streets, paying off the cops and organising sweatshop and building site work for Chinese immigrants, along with his sleazy brother Tito (Eduard Fernández). On top of that, Uxbal is also a loving father to his two children and takes care of his bi-polar, alcoholic, sometimes-estranged wife Marambra (Maricel Alvarez), who is having an affair with Tito.

Uxbal also has the ability to see and talk to the dead, so he occasionally makes money by easing them into the afterlife and convincing their grieving families that they have passed peacefully. When he's diagnosed with terminal cancer, Uxbal realises he has to put his own life in order but instead finds everything spiralling increasingly out of control.

The Good
Bardem delivers a terrific central performance as Uxbal, a thoroughly moral and compassionate man who is involved in illegal activity but treats his street dealers and exploited workers with respect; he is clearly a man with the weight of the world on his shoulders – or rather, the weight of two worlds, since he also seemingly has time to comfort the dead. There's also strong support from both Eduard Fernández and Maricel Alvarez.

The film is beautifully shot, with striking, frenetic cinematography by Iñárritu's regular collaborator Rodriego Prieto. There are also some subtle but extremely powerful special effects – most notably the ghosts that are often visible lurking quietly on the ceilings; this has a devastating emotional pay-off in the latter half of the film.

The Great
Iñárritu orchestrates some extraordinary sequences. Highlights include a police bust of the street vendors that explodes with energy and is partially shot from above so it resembles someone pouring hot water on an ants nest; Marambra and Tito's introduction scene is also extremely well done, with her teasing him with red wine, blasting music and semi-naked jiggling while he's on the phone to an oblivious Uxbal.

Worth seeing?
Beautifully shot and superbly written, this is a powerfully emotional drama with a terrific central performance by Javier Bardem. Highly recommended.

Film Trailer

Biutiful (15)
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Content updated: 19/07/2018 14:40

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