by NIR SHALEV
Javier Bardem plays Uxbal, a low level criminal operating on the streets of Barcelona. He is the medium between the street vendors that sell illegal products, the shops that manufacture the products, and the cops that need to be bribed. He also looks after the Chinese immigrants that live in a basement and manufacture the goods. He may be a criminal but he’s not a bad person and after watching this film, I cannot think of another actor to better personify Uxbal than Bardem.
When diagnosed with cancer and given a few months to live, Uxbal attempts to do better in life with what little time he has. He and his two children move back in with his ex-wife, Marambra (Maricel Álvarez) and he also tries to please the Chinese workers by providing them with a source of heat in their basement. Tragic consequences abound and his relationship with Marambra also falters terribly. His physical and mental conditions greatly deteriorate and yet he tells no one. He constantly reminds himself of his past and present sins and tries to purge himself of them, but still cannot help but feel responsible for everything that’s going on because he really is that nice of a person deep down inside.
Here is a magnificent, poignant, and powerfully human performance by Bardem. He received an Oscar nomination for his performance in this film and it was truly deserved. His face expresses many emotions and the most humanistic ones are very visually present. We care for Uxbal throughout the film but can’t help but feel like we have no choice because there’s not much bad that he’d truly done. There isn’t much penance that Uxbal needs to perform because he didn’t exploit anyone in his life; he was simply putting people to work and getting paid for it.
There is also the subplot of Uxbal being able to communicate with the recently deceased. It’s mostly done for artistic integrity, but I really liked those scenes. He’s not a rich man and so after providing the bereaving families with words left for them by their departed loves one, he still accepts cash payments.
This film is directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu. While it’s not a masterpiece like his debut film Amores Perros (2000), it is a very touching but mostly somber, melancholy, and grim tale of redemption during a dark time in a, mostly, good man’s life.
The DVD and Blu-ray contain a “Making of Biutiful” documentary and the theatrical trailer.
Other new releases this week: Drive Angry