Biutiful is the orthographical spelling in Spanish of the English word beautiful as it would sound to native Spanish speakers. It’s also the title of Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu’s fourth feature length film – and first since the hit Babel.
In Biutiful, Javier Bardem stars as Uxbal, a man living on the wrong side of the law who struggles to provide for his children on the dangerous streets of Barcelona. As fate encircles him, Uxbal learns to accept the realities of life, whether bright, bad – or “biutiful” – in this unforgettable film. Although most of the film concentrates on the bad side of things, more than the “biutiful”, you can’t help but fall for Uxbal, who’s human body is falling apart and dying before his very eyes.
As Uxbal struggles to make ends meet and ensure the safety and comfort of his children – and all those around him – he hides his illness from everyone until the pain and suffering is more than his family and friends can take. All the while, Uxbal is caring for a group of Chinese workers he’s hired to contract out to a construction site.
Bardem masterfully takes on the role of Uxbal and provides the character with a sense of humanity, caring and charm much like the people you’d expect on the seedier side of the city. It might very well be Bardem’s best performance.
This is not a happy story and at no point does the depression escape the life of Uxbal, but this is one of the most “biutifully” filmed movies I’ve ever seen. The camera captures the heart and soul of Uxbal as we follow him from his home, to the hospital, to the construction site and eventually to the basement where he stashes the Chinese workers.
The cinematography captures the “biutiful” side of the Barcelona hood and even though the buildings are corroded and decrepit, the beauty in the landscape is so hypnotizing. Add in the human heroism of Uxbal and you’ve got one of the best movies of the last 5 years.