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Biutiful a departure for Mexican Amores Perros director Alejandro González Iñárritu (3 stars)

Terminally ill underworld hustler Javier Bardem puts his life in order

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Biutiful a departure for Mexican Amores Perros director Alejandro González Iñárritu

(15) 147min

A departure for Mexican writer/director Alejandro González Iñárritu, following a trilogy of films (Amores Perros, 21 Grams and Babel) notable for their achronological, criss-crossing narratives. Save for its mysterious prologue, Biutiful is linear in its construction, and focuses on one protagonist and one location: underworld hustler Uxbal (Javier Bardem), in the ethnically diverse Barcelona suburb of Santa Coloma. Certainly Iñárritu and his co-screenwriters pour multiple misfortunes onto Uxbal’s shoulders. His ex-wife (Maricel Alvarez) suffers from bi-polar depression, while his business dealings with Senegalese drug-dealers and Chinese sweatshop labourers risk discovery by the authorities. Having been diagnosed with terminal cancer, he has just months to put his chaotic life in order.

A modern day variation on Kurosawa’s Ikiru (Living), this melodrama is notable for the vivid handheld cinematography of Rodrigo Prieto and a series of impressively choreographed action set pieces. Yet despite the convincing physicality of Bardem’s central performance and the authenticity of the settings, the story itself feels increasingly overwrought and over-determined. Uxbal is even saddled by the script with another burden which sends Biutiful off into supernatural territory. Take away the film’s undeniable visual panache, and you’re left with an ultimately sentimental and protracted tale of male redemption.

Selected release, Fri 28 Jan

Biutiful

  • 3 stars
  • 2010
  • Spain/Mexico
  • 15
  • Directed by: Alejandro González Iñárritu
  • Written by: Alejandro González Iñárritu, Armando Bo, Nicolás Giacobone
  • Cast: Javier Bardem, Maricel Álvarez, Hanaa Bouchaib, Guillermo Estrella, Diaryatou Daff, Cheng Tai Shen, Nasser Saleh

Having been diagnosed with terminal cancer, Barcelona underworld hustler Uxbal (Bardem) has just months to put his chaotic life in order and make arrangements for his young children and unstable ex-wife (Alvarez). Sentimental but visually impressive storytelling from writer-director Iñárritu.

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