I saw this film tonight.
There’s a scene near the end where Uxbal, the main character played by Javier Bardem, shares a hug with his young daughter, as he succumbs to cancer. The force and strength of their hug encapsulates this entire film. In the style of Alejandro González Iñárritu’s past films Amores Perros and Babel, Biutiful relies on the layering of suffering, pain, and interpersonal dependence. Each character is beholden to another in ways that stretch and claw at human emotion. There is a closeness, a familiarity of comfort that characters seek but are unable to reach as they navigate the underside of contemporary Barcelona. Senegalese immigrants try to make a living selling illegal goods, Chinese sweat-shop workers suffer the same exploitation they hoped to leave behind, a bipolar woman wants to reunite with her children and family but lapses back into manic episodes, and Uxbal faces the same fate as the deceased father he never met as he tries to maintain a stable life for his children.
Yes, there’s a lot going on in this film but in the way of a haunting book-length poem. Here is a Barcelona that is not often portrayed, and Innaritu has chosen to focus on the lives of people who exist on the bottom rungs; those who are often made into objects in the process of economic globalization. All of this is complemented by a visceral visual design. Innaritu brings out the grit and humanity of this world with natural light and saturated, contrasty colors dictated by the clashing tides of the society the characters exist in.
Watching this film made me want to be close to someone in the very moment after seeing it- my mother, my father, my sister, brother, or a lover. It made me want to talk to my grandfather and grandmother who died before I was born. It made me ponder the interconnectedness of human suffering on many levels, and the personal comfort and intimacy that seem all too elusive.