By now, you've probably already heard how depressing Biutiful really is. Don't go by that one-word conclusion. For a film about a downward spiral and bleak misfortune and tragedy, Inarritu's latest film, nominated for Actor in a Leading Role and Best Foreign Film at the Oscars, is a reassuring one about life and death.
With four outstanding films since debut — Amores Perros, 21 Grams, Babel and now Biutiful — Alejandro Inarritu Gonsalez is arguably the finest and most consistent auteur in the world. In other words, he's yet to make a bad film.
His philosophical explorations of cause and effect, life and death and how connected we are in our actions and consequences, go deeper with this tale of man whose life spirals from bad to worse, from cancer to death of hope and all means of support systems for his family.
So, yes, while it is sad and depressing when it unfolds, Inarritu makes sure that he doesn't play it up to manipulate the audience into tears. This is a film with greater ambitions. While it seeks to make a larger observation about life and how powerless we are, it also makes it a point to remind us that the universe takes care of everything.
Inarritu once again weaves an intricate tale about the nature of man, with the thread of spiritual subtext running through the plot that crisscrosses multiple lives all connected through another accident. While the accidents in Amores Perros and 21 Grams were literal, a freak incident in Babel, the accident here is a disaster beyond human control or understanding.
It's a nuanced, career-best performance by Javier Bardem as he effortlessly transforms from a cocky, short-tempered man in denial to a helpless, desperate soul filled with guilt to a frail, peaceful father gracefully accepting what's in store for him.
Despite the trappings that come with the genre (we all think we know how tragedies end), Biutiful stays largely unpredictable, without compromising the spiritual core.
It doesn't get better than this for anyone who loves world cinema. Life is Biutiful.
Director: Alejandro Inarritu Gonsalez
Cast: Javier Bardem, Maricel Alvarez, Hanaa Bouchaib, Guillermo Estrella
Storyline: A cancer-stricken single father, who does odd jobs — from talking to the dead to illegally supplying Chinese migrant workers — for survival, needs to make arrangements for his children and make peace with death.
Bottomline: A reassuring film about life, death, karma and letting go in the wake of tragedy. Ten on ten