BIUTIFUL (2010) SBS ONE, 9.30PM, MA, DRAMA
Biutiful, 145 minutes of pure, uncut misery, starts its disturbing downward spiral from the very first frame. If you are not watching throughout in a complete state of dread of what the finale might hold, it is only because of a staggering performance from Javier Bardem in the lead role.
He plays Uxbal, a Barcelona-based grafter doing his best to make ends meet while contemplating an end that already has the best of him. Diagnosed with cancer and given only a few months to live, this solo father with two young children in his care does not have the time to make his peace with the world. As it is, the circles in which Uxbal moves – the factory sweatshops of the Chinatown precinct and the city construction sites where he pimps out illegal African immigrants for day labour – are anything but peaceful.
Directed with a scrambled narrative focus by Mexican filmmaker Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Biutiful’s moments of clarity – each of them raw, moving and real – are all achieved by Bardem’s devastating depiction of his doomed character.
There is no way you can recommend Biutiful on the basis of promising an uplifting night in. If it really connects with you in the manner intended, the film could well ruin your week. However, as a work that sweeps you away with the flow of real and irreversible human emotions, Biutiful cannot be recommended highly enough. ★★★★