Monday, 11 February 2013

Review - Biutiful (2010 - Dir. Alejandro González Iñárritu)

The blurb proclaims that this is a near perfect film, and in so many ways it is just that.  The whole thing is a technical masterpiece; it's shot perfectly, the imagery is perfect, the plot, characterisation and atmosphere are all perfect. However the question needs to be asked, "Why is it not a particularly enjoyable viewing experience?"

The answer almost creates a new genre of film in its own right. This is a grimy little film. There is no hint of positivity here, no hope, no humour. Just grimy degradation, exploitation, illness and deprivation. With more guns, drugs and prostitutes it would be full on gritty, but we are even denied this level of excitement and are left with a seedy, dirty and depressing picture of real life for the Bacelona underclasses. Call it what you want; 'Grimy', 'Grime-core' or 'Grit-lite', Biutiful almost writes its own grimy checklist.

There's no criticism of the actors and Javier Bardem (Vicky Christina Barcelona) in particular is stunningly downbeat and depressing. Parcel him up in a world of immigrant workers, disease, marital problems, guilt, lawlessness and bizarrely, clairvoyancy(!), and you have a deeply disturbing 141 minutes ahead of you.

The start and the ending are fantastically weird, it's the two hours in-between that almost make you lose the will to live. It has something in common with other grimy offerings like Sex Party & Lies, Y Tu Mama Tambein and Amoros Peros, but takes the whole genre down to a new level of hopelessness. The best gritty films add a sprinkling of hope to proceedings (City of God), but Inarritu ignores this convention and we are left looking into the abyss. Only watch if your world looks rosy, because a couple of hours later it will certainly have a darker tinge.
9/10 for technical.

1/10 for enjoyment.

If you like this you could also try:
Butterfly's Tongue, The Sea Inside, The Secret in Their Eyes.

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