Biutiful is so horrifically sad that watching it renewed my affection for Bollywood. I immediately wanted to run out and get a dose of songs, family values and unbridled optimism.
Javier Bardem plays Uxbal, a fringe figure in the Barcelona underworld. He deals with illegal immigrants, Chinese businessmen who exploit them, corrupt cops.
Uxbal has separated from his wife who is mentally ill. So in addition to keeping his fragile and dangerous business alive, he must also look after his two young children. As an aside, him and his brother have to remove their father?s body from his grave, which has been sold to a real estate developer.
And if all of this wasn?t enough, in the first fifteen minutes of the film, Uxbal discovers that he has terminal cancer. The film traces his journey as he attempts to find some redemption and put his affairs in order.
This probably doesn?t sound like the most fun way to spend the weekend. And yet I found myself drawn into the narrative.
Biutiful is difficult and in places, dreary but Bardem?s astounding, Oscar-nominated performance doesn?t allow you to look away. Bardem combines physical beauty with such a profound humanity that he imbues even the low-life Uxbal with compassion and grace.
There is a dignity in his suffering and his wretched attempts to do some good before he dies. Biutiful works like a tragic poem.
Director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu creates a world of squalor and sorrow that is so textured and compelling that you can almost touch the grime on the kitchen sink.
But this is leavened by images of startling beauty ? a visual of bodies washed up on the beach sat in my head for a long time.
Biutiful isn?t entertainment as you routinely define it but it has a grand melancholy that moved me to tears. I recommend that you try it.