Biutiful (2010) reviewed ★★★★★
Symbolic realism has never been so relevant in films so much as those crafted from the mind of Alejandro González Iñárritu. What has convinced so many critics and naysayers to be a bleak and ultimately failed portrayal of a man’s final days is, on the contrary, a film about life, love, and the memory we hold and cherish of those who have passed on without us. Biutiful focuses on the life of Uxbal, a father and business man connected to the afterlife through his psychic abilities. The irony is that after being so accustomed and familiarized with death, his fear of dying has never left his consciousness, making his present journey quite a difficult one. Uxbal has severe prostate cancer, and any form of prevention, including chemotherapy, is strictly forbidden: when one’s time on Earth has met its last stride, one must not force it further. Thus, the only thing he can do is get rid of any debts he has on this land, therefore asking forgiveness of any past dues and making sure his children are safe and secure ranks high on his list. Not only this, but he must also learn to accept death and his own mortality, for choosing to ignore it comes with consequences of lingering in a stage of limbo: those who are not yet in heaven or hell yet not alive are in the in-between. This is a dangerous place that Uxbal must avoid, for even if he is the mediator which frees souls from limbo into the afterlife, he cannot be sure of his own salvation.
Now, another point I would like to focus on is one brought up earlier in the review: symbolic realism. In pondering Biutiful, it is the small but significant details that gather admiration and the fact that the camera chooses to sway pass them without a care in the world only adds to the humbling affect. By this I mean that there are several parts in the film where crucial information is set forth in a particular scene, but rather than focus on that specific element we are left to hunt for it visually before it passes the frame. This gives the film much more realism in the sense that it does not stop for anything; we are in real life and every detail is important, however, it is up to us to make those distinctions. We are plunged, right from the start, into the life of this father. We want to be saved too, we want our children to remember us, we long for connections in this world, for even the most destructive of relationships (that of his unfaithful wife) are worth having in comparison to those from the afterlife. Uxbal has lived with death all his life, and as he is now finally nearing his life’s true encounter with the afterlife, we are left in awe in what it truly takes to say “goodbye.”
Thank you for reading,
Omar Antonio Iturriaga