Javiar Bardem gives his best career performance to date as father Uxbal in “Biutiful,” sailing a seedy sea of troubles while attempting to do right by his children.
Since his estranged wife Marambra (Maricel Álvarez) is a manic-depressive prostitute, Uxbal has custody of his two children. He is a middleman for illegal immigrants in Barcelona and faces the turmoil of his own terminal illness and the spirits with which he can communicate.
Bardem plays the character of contradictions well, caught between his willingness to do whatever it takes to survive and his love and protection for his family and the immigrants.
Director Alejandro González Iñárritu, who also headed 2006’s “Babel,” again attempts to loop too many narratives together, leaving the film without a distinctive theme. The sprawling story line is jumbled, but Bardem plays Uxbal with a dignified restraint, carrying the film with powerful grace.
The use of handheld cameras creates a feeling of intimacy, while the washed-out colors turn the city into Uxbal’s own personal wasteland. Gustavo Santaolalla’s jarring score highlights each tribulation in the plot.
Hidden within the confusing, brutal world is one man’s journey of liberation. In the end, the film serves as a reminder that compassion isn’t always rational, but it is always genuine.
“Biutiful” was written by Armando Bo and Nicolás Giacobone, and written and directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu.
3 out of 4 stars