It’s dangerous to trust a man who is hungry, and even more if his children are hungry. In 2010’s Oscar nominated film Biutiful, Javier Bardem delivers a stunning performance in a film that is so busy, it fails to have the impact it so desperately wants to have on its audience.

Bardem plays Uxbal, a divorced father of two living in a poor neighborhood in Barcelona. He is a long time criminal and is mixed up in the business of human trafficking of some kind. The details of this aren’t entirely important as the main focus on the film is of Uxbal and his declining health. Early on in the film we’re told that Uxbal has prostate cancer and we’re shown several times the blood soaked urine that Uxbal passes. Not only does Uxbal struggling with dying and finding a home for his children, he must deal with his adulterous ex-wife who has returned hoping for another chance. Marambra played by Maricel Álvarez is frustratingly real and suffers from a manic depressive affliction. On top of that, the police are getting close to Uxbal’s criminal contacts. Finally in an inexplicable sub-plot, Uxbal reveals that he’s able to speak to the recent dead. Add all this together and we get a very busy film which makes it really tough to latch on to any one aspect of the character.

The problem for me with the film is there is just so much going on. The film from Alejandro González Iñárritu is typically busy, but unlike his previous films Babel, 21 Grams, and Amores Perros, there seemed to simply be too much story in this one film. Uxbal was being torn from so many sides I felt sympathy for him, but never at any point in the film, had hope for him. It was essentially watching someone suffer for 2 hours and 45 minutes. I love that Inarritu uses so much depth in his characters as it makes every one of the people feel real, however, sometimes less is more and if one or more of these plots would have been stripped away, I feel like it would have made for a better film.

One thing that I did enjoy from an artistic standpoint was Inarritu went to a linear storyline for the first time that I can recall. In the films Babel, 21 Grams and Amores Perros, there are multiple points in the story and the film dances between those points. In my personal favorite of his films, Amores Perros, the stories are intertwined but only towards the end of the film, and then again in the entirety of the film, if you know where to look. I think that’s a wonderful piece of work and unfortunately each of his film since has been a case for me of diminishing returns. If the desired effect was to make the audience glad that their lives aren’t like that of Uxbal, then I feel like they have succeeded in spades, however if the intent was to tell a thought provoking story, unfortunately I didn’t experience that and was relieved when the film was finally over.

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