Biutiful (2010)

Cast: Javier Bardem, Maricel Alvarez, Hanaa Bouchaib

An Oscar nominated drama directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Babel and 21 grams) this thoughtful film follows the lives of interlinking characters in the cultural melting pot of Barcelona’s underbelly.

This is not the Barcelona to be found in tourist brochures. This is the Spain of squalid, cramped apartments, 20% unemployment, illegal immigrants, sweat shops and dysfunctional families.

Central to the storyline is Uxbal, a petty criminal and part time clairvoyant, who tries to create a semblance of normality and domesticity for his 2 kids.

Uxbal’s fluid morality is constant throughout. He takes money from the bereaved, but in return gives them the peace of knowing that their loved ones have passed on spiritually. He facilitates construction jobs for illegal Chinese workers, but is concerned about their welfare. On top of all this he discovers that he has terminal prostate cancer, his bipolar wife wants rejoin their family, and the dead father he never knew is about to be reinterred in exchange for money from the developers who want the cemetery space for a new shopping mall.

Like the incorrect spelling of the title, all of the characters’ lives convey a deeper meaning about life and its vagaries, albeit in a broken(faulty) way. There is a distinct humanity to all the characters, despite all their flaws.

Underneath all the grime and strife, this is a subtle tale of the ongoing daily struggle for survival and redemption that most people have to endure.

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