Javier Bardem is perhaps one of Spain’s most well-known and respected actors. He has starred in many films and received numerous awards, and has earned recognition in the United States as well when, in 2008, he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his work in No Country for Old Men. He’s the first Spanish actor to win said award. His latest film Biutiful, directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu (Amores perros21 GramsBabel) is now out on Blu-ray and fans of Bardem and Iñárritu may want to think about picking up this Mexican/Spanish gem.

Biutiful centers on Uxbal (Bardem), a single father living in Barcelona who works hard to provide for his two children. Despite his less than legal job, the exploitation of illegal immigrants, he is simply looking out for his children’s wellbeing. Strain is added to his already difficult life via his wife Marambra (Maricel Álvarez), whom he has separated from and is bipolar, and his older brother Tito (Eduard Fernández).

This film is an extremely realistic human drama. The characters are very well-drawn out, the dialogue is natural and the camera work is wonderfully shaky. Iñárritu has certainly painted a lovely picture here with this film. He injects pain, tenderness and beauty into many of the shots and sometimes all in the same shot. The character of Uxbal is a tortured soul. He has experienced lots of pain in his life yet he still pushes on because he loves his children very much and only wants what’s best for them.

The picture in Biutiful is pale and washed out. This is symbolic of Uxbal’s world which is also dull and bleak. The only glimmer of light comes when he’s with children. They illuminate his life and remind him that there still is beauty in his ugly world.

Javier Bardem is absolutely marvelous in this film. He is a very intense actor and quite often, his emotions shine through him with perfect clarity. Throughout most of the film, he dons this brooding, irritated look which may make viewers feel a little bit on edge. However, as the film progresses and we get to know Uxbal more and more, that initial discomfort and uneasiness melts away and we see the real Uxbal, a well-meaning soul buried beneath a gruff and seemingly invulnerable exterior.

Though the acting in Biutiful is superb, the close-ups of the actors’ faces are also equally mesmerizing. In many of the scenes, dialogue isn’t even necessary. A facial expression can speak volumes. Bardem in particular, has a very expressive face; he can be in a scene and not say a single word and still get his message across. His big eyes and strong features definitely reinforce this fact.

Biutiful isn’t just a film, it’s an experience. The story seems so real that it almost feels like someone just picked up a camera and started filming actual situations. Though it is a work of fiction, elements of it seem rather real, such as the immigrants’ fear of being deported, and the ever present ingredients of crime and illness, perfecting this cinematic stew. Javier Bardem carries this picture all the way through and even though the dialogue is in Spanish, Iñárritu’s message of family togetherness and hard work comes across loud and clear. This film truly isBiutiful.

Blu-ray Bonus Features

The bonus features for Biutiful are pretty good. There is Behind Biutiful: Director’s Flip Notes, an insightful video diary shot by Alejandro González Iñárritu which chronicles some behind-the-scenes moments of the film, providing insightful commentary by the director. There is also a short video set to music which acknowledges most of the film’s crew. There are interviews with three members of the cast and lastly there are trailers for Biutiful and other Lionsgate films on Blu-ray.

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