warning Hi, we've moved to USCANNENBERGMEDIA.COM. Visit us there!

Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Prepare Yourself For "Biutiful"

Natalie Tkalcevic |
February 6, 2011 | 12:31 p.m. PST


As the lights dimmed in Hollywood’s ArcLight Cinema theatre, nothing could prepare the audience for the intensity of Alejandro Iñárritu’s newest film "Biutiful." The obscure trailer, raving reviews, and numerous award nominations leave viewers completely unaware of the severe darkness of the movie until they are fully immersed in it, as the story unravels and keeps unraveling until the last thirty seconds of the film.

Through all this darkness, comes a bizarre plot full of twists and happenings, never providing the audience with time to process the latest situation at hand. As Uxbel (Javier Bardem) faces a whirl of problems in his already troubled life, there is no doubt to why Bardem has had so many nominations for his "Biutiful" performance. Uxbel's emotional roller-coaster throughout the movie affects the viewers of the film just as strongly, highlighting Bardem’s amazing work. His character seems to be the only thing throughout the majority of the film that keeps viewers calm. 

Creative Commons
Creative Commons
With his large build and kind eyes, it is difficult not to trust him when he is planning his next attack to defeat each obstacle thrown at him. Bardem approaches the character creatively and gracefully, even making the scariest, most disturbing parts a little more bearable with his calm manner. But even with his composure throughout the movie, there are moments that still need a little more light to keep the audience emotionally stable enough to finish watching the film. 

Bardem’s children in the movie, played by Hanaa Bouchaib and Guillermo Estrella, give everyone a reason to keep living—both the characters in the movie and those viewing it.  Their characters, Ana and Mateo (respectively) are not only the most important thing in Uxbel’s life, but also the soul of the movie, as everything that Uxbel is doing is in lieu of making their lives livable and comfortable. In any sense, these children and their performing talents provide the audience with the emotions to really appreciate their own lives and also gain awareness for the harsh realities of the world we are facing today. They are the bright lights and yet the darkest of the darks, showing the hardships that so many endure.

Along with the children, the side stories of families affected by Uxbel’s work left me shocked and completely enlightened to an entire world that I never really took the time to understand—the secretive life of the black market in Spain. It is in the setting of Uxbel’s part within the black market where the most disturbing and most bizarre parts of the movie are exploited, causing a lot of confusion along with numerous moments of gaping mouths, tears, and gasps.

Despite all of the confusion, the story all seems to make sense toward the end, even as the conflicts keep flowing. You gain a better understanding that this chaos, although on extreme levels, provides a look at how many things each of us needs to take care of before being at peace.

And although the movie is full of darkness, disturbing images and storylines that left me saddened and sick to my stomach, the ending does not just leave Bardem and the rest of the characters at peace but also the audience with an “it’s going to be okay” attitude. The dialogue, especially the graceful simplicity of the Spanish, along with the varying symbolism in every shot, provide an underlying optimism and hope for the future. After all, life works in “biutiful” ways, some bright and some dark, and we must appreciate all of the light and be as optimistic about the future as we possibly can.

Reach Natalie Tkalcevic here.



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.