Best Foreign Language Picture nominee "Biutiful" is a triumph for Best Actor nominee Javier Bardem playing a small time Barcelona criminal who acts as a kind of shadowy middleman between illegal human traffickers and corrupt authorities. When he learns that he has a terminal illness his life becomes a struggle to arrange a decent home for the two small children he is going to leave behind. This is no easy task in the world he inhabits. Neither his mentally disturbed wife from whom he is separated nor his lowlife brother offer him much hope.
Biutiful, Mexico's entry in the Academy Awards, is worth seeing especially for Bardem's performance but there are some problems. The film seems a little overlong and the script sometimes borders on the melodramatic. Also some events appear to have been added for dramatic effect and they just end up watering down the essential story.
According to one biography director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu studied existentialist writers as an adolescent and I think we see a lot of that influence here. Bardem's character "Uxbal" prefers isolation and doesn't let anyone get too close. He has been disappointed by people so many times that he is reluctant to trust anybody until he has no other choice. The people he encounters are unable or unwilling to see past their own narrow self-interest. This is a world of futility where even good intentions ultimately have tragic consequences.
But into this miserable world if there is any redemption for Uxbal it is in his love for his children. He wants them to remember him as he remembers his father. With all that has gone wrong in his life he feels that the worst thing would be for him to be forgotten by those he loves. That would be unbearable.