Biutiful: The Balance of Life (2010)

Posted: November 2, 2011 in Drama, Foreign

Uxbul is a man who scrapes by through life but tries to provide for his children and their mother. While he may not work with the most legal of businesses, he clearly exhibits a kind heart and attempts to keep his partners aware that they work with real people, even though they may be poor immigrants. When he receives news regarding his mortality, he struggles with knowing his fate but wanting to make the right choices. His love for his children is clear but he pushes himself to the limit to rekindle something with his former love. Meanwhile, his business continues to operate in secret and only he seems to want to help the workers improve their environment.

Starring: Javier Bardem (Uxbal), Maricel Alvarez (Marambra), Hanaa Bouchaib (Ana), Guillermo Estrella (Mateo), Eduard Fernandez (Tito), Cheikh Ndiaye (Ekweme), Diaryatou Daff (Ige), Taisheng Chen (Hai), Jin Luo (Liwei), Lang Sofia Lin (Li), Yodian Yang (Chino Obeso), George Chibuikwem Chukwuma (Samuel)

Nominated for Best Actor in 2010, Javier Bardem puts forth a passionate, convincing performance as a man with a worsening condition who just wants to do right by his children. His reactions to the mistreatment of his children and of the immigrant workers pushes his character to the limit. He also portrays his worsening condition in a way that draws the viewer into his pain. As his female partner, Marciel Alvarez matches Bardem’s passion with her own blend of pain and emotional instability. She gives a sense of both pity and disgust with her challenging interactions with Bardem and the children.

Director of American films Babel and 21 Grams, Alejandro Inarritu mixes together the dramatic with a taste of the paranormal and spiritual. The film starts with a combination of Uxbul proclaiming his love to a mystery woman and out in the snow with an unknown man. These scenes serve to set up both the backstory of Uxbul’s family and tone for the remainder of the film. The entirety of the movie is focused on Uxbul’s discovery of his prostate cancer and the impact it has on is relationships and line of work. As the middleman of the sweatshop, his kinder approach to the workers provides more support than the owner is willing to provide but his backdoor dealing sets him up for an eventual catastrophe. His support of his children clearly shows he loves them, but his relationship with Marambra comes together over their past and their children but falls apart over the her mental instability and drug addiction.

The interesting paranormal/spiritual element is Uxbul’s experience as a medium. While this may not be clear through the story’s presentation, there are spirits periodically positioned around the ceilings and his interaction with the young boy who passed on unveils a discovery for his family. Even the story of his father’s background adds an element of spirituality in how Uxbul interprets his memories and interacts with his surroundings.

The film has a veil of sorrow while transitioning between Uxbul’s painful and short but meaningful happy moments. It is a powerful film that definitely deserved its Oscar nod.

Dan’s Rating: 4.0/5

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