Monday, September 12, 2011

"Look in my eyes. Look at my face. Remember me, please."

Film: Biutiful
Year: 2010
Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Written by: Alejandro González Iñárritu, Armando Bo and Nicolás Giacobone.
Starring: Javier Bardem, Maricel Álvarez, Hanaa Bouchaib, Guillermo Estrella, Eduard Fernández, Cheikh Ndiaye, Diaryatou Daff.
Running time: 148 min.

Life is hard. If there was any point that Biutiful wanted to get across, that was it. Uxbal (Javier Bardem), seems to be going through it all. His estranged wife, Marambra (Maricel Álvarez), suffers from bipolar disorder which leaves her seemingly unable to look after their two children. He's trying to keep his operations with several Chinese immigrants afloat, while they live in poor conditions. Uxbal himself doesn't live in the greatest of conditions. His brother is sleeping with his wife. He can communicate with a dead body's soul. He's also dying of prostate cancer. Yes, there is a lot that Uxbal and his audience have to feel bad about. And it's like Alejandro González Iñárritu wants you to feel as terrible as ever about it all. For 148 minutes. Doesn't sound like fun, does it? No. But while the film has divided audiences and critics alike, I still found the energy deep within my soul to like this movie. Not an easy feat at all.

Biutiful is literally painful to watch. It's horribly bleak, all the way through to it's core. There are small moments of happiness, but they are few and extremely far between. Yet, while it is bleak, it failed to reach me emotionally. I felt bad but I didn't really feel that sad as such. To be honest, I felt quite disappointed that I didn't cry during this film, mainly because there weren't any ample opportunities to cry. Yet, I just felt genuinely bad for Uxbal and all of his problems, as I'm sure that Iñárritu just wanted to remind us all that the world is a cruel place. After about five minutes, I was able to shake this movie off and go to sleep. I guess I wish that I felt more for this movie. But what I'll always remember is the haunting image of a weak and near emaciated Uxbal wearing an adult-sized nappy struggling through his illness. That image is probably the only one that made me feel sad as opposed to bad, and it is probably one that I won't be forgetting in a hurry.

No, this isn't a movie that you can feel awfully great about. And I totally understand why a lot of people don't really like it. Running at just under two and a half hours, the film is extremely slow in pace and doesn't really appear to make itself any easier for the audience to watch. You know how a lot of critics usually pick a few movies apart simply because they aren't 'real' enough or 'raw' enough? Well, Biutiful is just about as real and raw as they come. Unfortunately, while it has those glowing traits that most critics swoon over, it's perhaps too upfront about how real it is. There are so many sad things that go on in this movie, and each thing comes like a sledgehammer. Despite the fact that Biutiful is relentlessly bleak and doused with pain, it is a tragically poetic film that really picks itself up in the final act. As I watched Uxbal's decline, I couldn't help but feel that maybe too many things went wrong in his life all at once, but some of the things that happen are particularly memorable and especially painful. Instead, this pain is genuine, as opposed to the pain I endured during the slow paced first act.

But hey, if there's one reason why this movie is very worthy, it is Javier Bardem's amazing performance. Back when the Oscars were announced, I thought he was a bit of a dark horse, and I thought that he was the one responsible for Ryan Gosling's shock snub for Blue Valentine. But now I see that Bardem was just as worthy for a nomination, and he was definitely worthy for the award. Watching him descend into the deep pool of pain that his disease has caused and hopelessly trying to become a better person in the face of his impending death was brilliant. He crafted such a multi-faceted character who wasn't all good, but it's hard not to feel for what he is going through. Also turning in a brilliant performance is Maricel Álvarez, who hasn't had a lot of experience but struck all of the right chords with her thrilling portrayal of a mentally unstable woman. As I said, I did like the film quite a bit: the performances are mind blowing, the direction is beautiful and it's quite well written, considering it's got quite an interesting take on death and true pain. Yet, thanks to several side stories and an ending which is certainly lacking, Biutiful is a film which demands a second watch in order to fully get what it is trying to say. Except, it's probably a film that after one time, you will never find the energy to watch again.

What I got:


  1. I had a lot of issues with the film. Not just for its length but how turgid its pace was. I know Inarritu has this obsession with death but he kind of goes overboard with it that it really took me out. If it wasn't for Javier Bardem's performance, it would've been a much worse film. Inarritu needs to simplify his ideas more and add a bit of humor next time he wants to approach his fascination with death. Otherwise, he'll just get people to bitch about his films.

  2. Yep, this is definitely a movie that can be described a "relentlessly depressing." I'm not sure whether i liked it or not, but i personally felt for Uxbal, especially when he tried to help out the immigrants and had to witness the consequences of it.

    I personally saw it as a story about a man who was trying to do good for those around him but wasn't able to the way he would have liked.

  3. omg i thought this was one of the best movies i saw last year! amazingly beautiful film

  4. thevoid99 - I felt a bit drained by this movie, and I too had issues. Unfortunately, I'm not the kind of person who is into death and stuff like that, so it was a bit much. And yes, there should have been a bit of humour. It needed to lighten up just a tad.

    Julian - I did feel for Uxbal too. I felt so bad when the immigrants died...that image still haunts me to this day.
    Yeah, I saw that too.

    Candice - I know you did :) I saw your review!

  5. Bardem and Iñárritu draw you in to a story that says so much about not only its individual characters but also of life, exile, love, family and death. Nice review.

  6. Yeah, it does say quite a lot about life, exile, love, family and death! Thanks!


You mustn't be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling.


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