Biutiful

It would be impossible to list the Oscar-worthy performances of 2010 without highlighting Javier Bardem in Biutiful. Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu (Babel, 21 Grams, Amores Perros) describes Uxbal, the character Bardem embodies in flesh and spirit, as "devoted father, tormented lover, mystified son, underground businessman, ghost seeker, spiritual sensitive, consumer-goods pirate, guilty conscience and urban survivor." All of this and more can be seen on Bardem's indelibly expressive face. Uxbal wanders the mean streets of Barcelona trying to put his life in order, evading the law while caring for his two kids, Ana (Hanaa Bouchaib) and Mateo (Guillermo Estrella), since their bipolar mother (an amazing job from Maricel Álvarez) is incapable. Biutiful (the title is derived from Ana's misspelling) digs out beauty in the rubble. Shot hand-held with a poet's eye by Rodrigo Prieto, the film is relentless but as riveting as the world a remarkable actor lets us see through Uxbal's eyes. Bravo, Bardem.

From The Archives Issue 1120: December 23, 2010