|Still from Biutiful|
Alejandro González Iñárritu's latest effort is a portrait of dying Man, struggling in a race against time to ensure the one thing constant in his life, his loving Children, are cared for after he passes on. Despite being prolonged by lengthy nuances, it possesses true heart thanks to its tragic Hero.
Biutiful centers around Uxbal (Javier Bardem) who deals in underground affairs, including selling the labour of illegal immigrants in Barcelona. Having separated from his mentally unstable and Alcoholic Wife Marambra (Maricel Álvarez), he finds himself drawn back to her both out of love and a need for a Maternal figure in their Children's lives.
Hai (Cheng Tai-Shen) is Uxbal's Business Associate and together they are caught in a dangerous struggle to keep the illegal Chinese immigrants whom they are harbouring, under the radar from Police. At the same time they must find these people Employment as the future of Uxbal's Children is dependent on this much-needed income and thus, a driving force in his fight to live.
Interestingly, Uxbal somehow is connected to the Afterlife via a series of eery Apparitions. In his ever-increasing awareness of his own Mortality, he becomes fixated on his deceased Father, whom he never got to know as a Child. Perhaps this too subconsciously pushes him to avoid repeating history.
Uxbal takes-in a Senegalese Woman, Ige (Diaryatou Daff), who is in desperate need of Shelter for herself and her Baby in the face of Poverty after her husband Ekweme (Cheikh Ndiaye) is jailed. As the Universe pulls him closer towards his imminent Death, can Uxbal's greatest challenge, to not fail as a Father, be overcome?
What makes Biutiful intriguing is that Iñárritu ever so intricately details each one of his Characters in this trilingual Screenplay. Each character has a dark secret and they are so deeply entangled in their own complications that before we know it, we too become accessories to their Crimes of the Underworld. Iñárritu depicts a grim Barcelona in muted tones - managing to make Mango Ice Cream look sickly - never too shy to reveal the ugliness of Realities and Illness.
Bardem's performance is as usual to-standard and never for a moment do we feel we are watching an Actor at work, but instead we are ailing alongside the real Uxbal. Although the theme of a Parent going to extreme meaures in protecting their Child(ren) was explored in 2007's engaging Volver by Pedro Almodóvar, Biutiful delves deeper into the darkness and its surroundings and just might keep you dangling there for a bit afterwards. You've been warned.
Maple Pictures releases Biutiful in select cities on February 11, 2011. Grade: B+