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Movie Review: Biutiful (Spanish) 120

It isn’t uncommon to see misery and human suffering attracting attention of critics and the jury. Alejandro González Iñárritu’s earlier film ‘Babel’ addressed the same theme across borders and this time it is someone’s downhill journey. While I felt ‘Babel’ was a pointless tale of pain, Biutiful gets it right by his character a motive and putting hurdles along his way.

Titled as the way the Spanish spell Beautiful, it is a two and a half hour drama on the last days of Uxbal as he seeks to tie up a few loose ends before his cancer kills him.

Swimming in the filth of Barcelona’s underbelly, Uxbal is a middleman for employing illegal immigrants, helps them sell their wares and goes out of his way to help some of them. In brief, he is a thug but a good man at heart. But, does he do so because he knows he is dying?

Uxbal takes up most of the screen-time. But there is not a moment when you feel that Javier Bardem (seen in ‘Vicky Cristina Barcelona’) is not Uxbal. In what is a first Oscar nomination for a character in an entirely Spanish film, Bardem brings out the character’s anguish and helplessness as a single father seeking some closure. That includes arranging care for his kids, bridging ties with his estranged wife and helping people amidst a life of crime.

The film has reportedly taken more than 3 years to make from when it started being penned. Probably the best thing about its script is that its characters and situations emerge out of dialog and visuals rather than relying on narrative. Be it his cancer, or his wife prostituting for drugs, lives of illegal immigrants, corrupt cops and what drives Uxbal.

The setting, bereft of glamour or anything cheerful is carefully chosen to reflect the mid of its central character, its tiresome length and overdose of visuals wear you down. Also, a few scenes showing Uxbal speaking to the dead were completely avoidable.

If you can assure yourself that you would watch the film without being affected by its misery, the film is worth watching. Never mind the empty seats around; this isn’t a commercial flick.

Rating 7/10: Watch out for Bardem’s acting and the way the script unfolds itself!
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