Iñárritu's Biutiful is a powerful, moving film about a single father dying of cancer. Uxbal (Bardem) has custody of his two kids, Mateo (Estrella) and Ana (Bouchaib), because of his bipolar wife's erratic behavior. He also runs a fake handbag business, managing Chinese sweatshop workers (Shen) and Senegalese street vendors (Ndiaye). After learning of his diagnosis, he tries to reconcile with his wife (Álvarez) for his children's sake, but all his attempts to do the right thing for everyone he cares about spiral out of control.
Iñárritu is a master of multiple story lines. Although they all stem from the same root (instead of intersecting randomly as they have in the past), we still enjoy vast, diverse, sprawling epics. Iñárritu does not shy away from tough topics, tackling illegal immigration, parenting with mental illness, and coming to grips with death. He brings these into sharp focus with an ear for incisive dialogue and an eye for evocative shots. For being such a dark, depressing movie, it contains extremely colorful shots that somehow still maintain a gritty blackness. The acting by Bardem is absolutely incredible. His silent looks, his flashes of anger, holding emotions in and letting rage out, all come together to give us a crystal clear picture of the chaos behind his passing life.
Despite my praise for the thematics and tone of the film, Biutiful can be a little slow. It's about thirty minutes longer than it needs to be. Despite its pace, it is steady in its progression and sure in its footing. The cinematography is too handheld for me, unnecessarily so. I wished the camera would just stop moving every once in a while. They invented tripods for a reason. Also, the nudity in this film seems superfluous and over-the-top. By the end of it, you're just tired of all the breasts. Still, this is a terrific movie. It is refreshing to see that Iñárritu still has important things to say and the talent to say it in prolific ways.
IMDb link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1164999/