Monday 14 February 2011

Review: Biutiful

Year: 2010 (U.K Release 2011)
Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Screenplay: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Starring: Javier Bardem

Synopsis is here:

Films like Biutiful remind me why many dislike foreign language films. It is not necessarily down to the subtitles, although the amount of remakes say otherwise. It's stumbling upon a film that decided that it wants to "move" you with it's profound sadness and despair. I'm fine with films that wish to be downbeat and I'm completely ok with all out depressing; but Biutiful is so somber, so tragic and so absurd it almost comes off a little silly.

Biutiful with it's misspelled ironic title lays everything on too thickly. We are told from the start that our protagonist Uxbal (Bardam) has a few months to live and the film decides to go down from here. There doesn't seem to be any wish for us to really feel for this characters plight, only know that shit happens, when it rains it pours and Job had it bloody easy. Everything is drenched in a melodramatic gloom from the seems to be no escape, redemption or joy. Once again I don't need joy in a film to gain something from it but halfway through I was almost begging Uxbal just to top himself and relive everyone of the misery. We're given mistrusting brothers, bipolar, estranged spouses who work as prostitutes, depressed, troubled children and I haven't even got to the exploited to say their story isn't a bundle of fun.

To add this we are given an over proud, criminal Christ figure who believes that his own pain must be hidden because everyone hurts. PLUS HE CAN SEE THE DEAD BECAUSE HE HIMSELF IS DYING. In real life we cannot give to every charity as we must (and do) have a sense of the internal. This is not as selfish as it is true. There's only so much that we can do as people. Iñárritu wishes to not only to drown Uxbal in his many sorrows, plying slabs of depression like slabs of butter on toast but also pivots all this mechanical manipulation on the fact that Uxbal just thinks to highly of everything to seek true solace or help. It's a frustrating principal made even more annoying by the simple factor that Iñárritu labours over this for almost three hours. It's just too much and in the end, the whole film feels like all 26 years of Eastenders Christmas specials slapping you in the face with some of the sixth sense/hereafter/the haunting in Connecticut thrown in. 

With all the self-important misery going on, it's very crucial to be invested in Javier Bardem and it's not hard to see why the man has gained the plaudits. Bardem is a wonderfully human actor and his presence makes all the wallowing semi-bearable. But here it's just not enough because there's just so much suffering and way too much naval gazing. I felt like a was slammed through the wringer before the dreaded cancer strengthen his grip. The worst thing about the whole thing the pointless feeling I gained with the films last moments. Everything feels as it was almost all in vain and you've just viewed this man's last months just to watch him die. Biutiful is a film that has none of the absurd wit placed with A Serious Man, nor does it have the gentle poignancy and retrospect which was infused within A Single Man. Reminding myself of Iñárritu's back catalog I found myself more disappointed. 21 Grams, Amores Perros are not only superbly crafted films (this is also well put together technically) but also more focused and parred down pieces which I both found genuine heart to. Biutiful is not interested in heart unless it features some sort of stabbing.

In a cinematic world where a horror film would be looked down upon having masochistic wish to display psychical pain. Get rid of the blood and the make same amount of grief emotional and you've got yourself an award piece it seems. Quite simply Biutiful, isn't.