I managed to see a special screening of the film which won actor Javier Bardem the Best Actor award at this years (63rd) Cannes Film Festival at this years Cine-City Film Festival in Brighton and what an experience it was. The movies I am referring to is Alejandro González Iñárritu’s ‘Biutiful’. The Mexican born director is already famous with English speaking countries with films such as ’21 Grams’ and ‘Babel’, however he is back on top form with one of this years best foreign film.
Uxbal (Javier Bardem) a single parent of Matoe (Guillermo Estrella) and Maramba (Hanaa Bouchaib) is a good man who is trying to do the best he can for everyone, unfortunately it doesn’t always work out how he anticipated. Whilst Uxbal runs a sweat shop for Chinese immigrants and gets African immigrants to sell the stuff on the streets, his main job is to talk to the recently diseased and help them move on to the next life. After suffering from stomach pains, Uxbal is quick to find out he only have a few months left to live which sets him off in a desperate attempt to get closer to his kids so that the do not forget about him whilst at the same time trying to patch things up with his ex-wife Marambra (Maricel Álvarez).
Whilst Uxbal’s uncanny job only appears a few times during the course of the plot the films main focus is on a man who is trying to make the most of his life before he dies. It is only until the end, that we understand the supernatural edge the movie carries, and carries well. Iñárritu has managed to cross different genres and the end result is a cross between a melodrama and a growing of age story with haunting scenes which will freak out experienced horror fans which films such as ‘Paranormal Activity 2’ can’t copy. But be warned this isn’t a supernatural movie, it is clear that the main focus is on the family.
The visuals are beautiful as the film opens on a snow covered hill top but soon moves onto the darker side of Barcelona. The excellent visuals stay through out the movie as Iñárritu shows different sides of the city which cinema hasn’t been before. And even though the film comes in at over the two hour mark it is a somewhat enjoyable viewing which isn’t down to the movie but the content it shows as we see Uxbal slowing dying.
The special effects, whilst only being brief are terrific as they blend into the surroundings rather then distract you from them. The nightmarish scenes as Uxbal makes peace with the spirits of the dead leave a distinct taste in the mouth of the audience well after you have left the cinema. It is easy to see why Guillermo Del Toro attached his name to the project.
The acting is fantastic as we see Uxbal at his best and worst but this detail to character arch is also seen with the characters such as Marambra. But even the children have to deal with some tough material as the parents a constantly bickering at each other. Javier Bardem has made the character of Uxbal a very like able one as we sympathise with what he does despite him hurting everyone he tries to help.
‘Biutiful’ is definitely one of the best films of the year and possibly the best foreign film. Iñárritu has blended a fantastic story about a man attempting to tie up all the strings of his somewhat messy and uncontrolled life before his inevitable fate with and equally good supernatural subplot which ties everything up in the end. If Bardem won an Academy Award for his psychotic killer in ‘No Country for Old Men’ then he definitely deservers to be nominated for Best Actor at next years award season.