Alejandro Gonzáles Iñárritu's worldview has not brightened despite the international success of his films 21 Grams and Babel. Now he returns to his mother tongue, combining 21 Grams' gritty visuals with Babel's thematization on internationalization. The difference this time is that Biutiful is almost completely void of whatever optimism his previous films exhibited, resulting in one of the most toilsome cinematic experiences for as long as I can remember.
What holds the film together, both from the wretched characters' and Iñarritu's point of view, is a busy Javier Bardem. His performance is brilliant, because it is a hundred percent human, for better or worse. Uxbal truly cares for the people he surrounds himself with, only to cheat them for money in the next second - all in order to secure a better life for himself and his children, which ultimately is what most characters in Biutiful strive for. None of Iñarritu's characters were born with a silver spoon in their mouth, and he's not about to correct whatever injustice they've suffered without securing his camera a scrutinizing look at their misery in the process.
Not surprisingly, Biutiful is nothing like the title suggests; it is a heart-rending tale of a modern urban struggle for existence in a western society most of us believe provides all its citizens with acceptable welfare and security. Iñárritu claims that over-population and distributive injustice is threatening to distroy even the comfortable lives westerners have come to take for granted. It is this insightful perspective along with the realism in the interpersonal scenes, centered around the for all of us recognizable situation Uxbal ultimately find himself in, that makes Biutiful a painfully effective film. And if you're prepared to suffer, you can almost certainly walk out of the cinema with a more positive outlook on your own life.