Biutiful. If there’s a better film to make you suicidal, I don’t know what it is.
Javier Bardem plays Uxbal, a flawed man flailing for some decency in his life who finds out that his life is in peril. He tries to make a good life for his two kids, despite the fact that their mother is a drug-addicted mess who favors one child over the other. His business is tied to a Barcelona sweatshop that cranks out designer knock-off purses and the like, which are hawked on the street by African immigrants.
His business partner is a closeted gay man who must keep his lover a secret from his powerful family. It is a sign of how disconnected Biutiful is that we don’t care a bit for the only gay characters in the film. When an act of kindness by Uxbal, intended to provide warmth to the exploited workforce, goes horribly wrong it sets off a series of even more depressing events that will bring all the characters to the edge of an emotional abyss.
Bardem hasn’t given a bad performance in his career, and was the only decent thing in Eat Pray Love. Not surprisingly, his work in Biutiful is the only reason to see it. Just be sure to go in a good mood; you can’t be held responsible for your actions after suffering through this not-so-beautiful film.
UPDATE: Biutiful is now available on DVD and Blu-ray from Amazon.com.
Review by Neil Cohen, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Phoenix's Echo Magazine.