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Biutiful (2010)
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Magnificently grim but also slightly metaphysical picture that is able to reveal hope out of the depths of despair for its main character, 15 October 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Uxbal is a protagonist of the highest dramatical calibre not unlike Hamlet or Oedipus. This ailing father of two children and spouse of an unstable woman suffering from borderline syndrome and drug addiction, has departed on a calvary that seems to have no end. In ever more harsh and merciless ways Uxbal is undergoing every sort of torment and kickback thrown upon him by the demons of his gravely deseased Fortune. Indeed, Uxbal finds out that he is suffering from a terminal form of prostate cancer. Even though in essence Uxbal is a good man - fate seems to have chosen quite a different direction for him as where we usually believe our chance and luck to be. However, in this struggle from amidst the darkness of his daily existence in the messy streets of Barcelona Uxbal somehow is able to come to term with his fate without giving in to despair. In fact, through a gradual process of material disattachment he rises to a level of wise and unprecedented reconciliation with destiny as well as with the people he cares about and loves. After a long and painful journey of cancerous ordeals and unwanted horrors, at the end Uxbal is ready to make his last and necessary sacrifice before he can depart into the snowy landscape of his timetranscending visionary dream of a chanceful reunification with his grandfather killed by Franco's royalists during the Civil War.

At the press conference in Cannes last May 2010 Alejandro González Inárittu declared in his vehimently articulate manner: "Even if darkness seems to be everywhere, Biutiful offers many touches of hope. I'd even say it's my most optimistic film. Uxbal's character is full of light. He puts a lot into organising his life, helping his children, loving other people."

Biutiful is a truly emotional and even spiritual masterpiece of the most magnificent kind. For whomever is willing or able to follow the main characters throughout their dazzling daily struggles to survive on the shady side of life in Barcelona whilst persisting in their illusionary and mostly illegal follies that are the unfortunate demonstrations of their communal longing for some warmth and wealth and happiness, he or she will be rewarded with a discovery that might be as liberating and emotional for Uxbal as it will be for the viewer following his endeavours from so nearby it hurts. What Inárittu has tried throughout his ruthless, fastpaced, extremely honest, direct and intimate style of holding the camera as close to one's skin as possible, is to make us sense and realize that in the end their might indeed be something like a human soul after all. A discovery not unlike the one pursued by his tormented characters from that other masterpiece of his: 21 Grams. The viewer who is able to show sympathy for Uxbal, will be able to witness a most remarkable moral recovery in the inner self of our slowly but steadily vanishing hero. In a very humble but all the more remarkable way Uxbal somehow managed to keep some ray of light awake amidst the darkness that is closing in on him from the realms of his grim unfortunate reality. In the end, on the threshold of his toilet and bedroom and amidst the company of his daughter and a refugee he was so kind as to adopt in his house after her husband was deported back to Africa, Uxbal is able to finally reach the surface of his dignity again. This happens while he is literally dying and physially collapsing. But spiritually, his ascendance back upon the slippery slope of his generous but tested and tormented mind towards a state of peacefulness and grace, is a tour de force indeed. It is magical. Mysterious. Hopeful. Just like the entire encadrement of Inarritu's latest masterpiece. And just like Javier Bardem's amazing achievement to make us weep and at the same time feel happy for the faith that he was able to sustain out of the cold and unjust misery that chased him all along his final destiny.