Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu
With Javier Bardem and Maricel Álvarez

Biutiful is beautiful. Set in a dirty barrio on the wrong side of Barcelona, it’s a story about redemption and forgiveness, asked of the living and of the dead. It’s about inner goodness, and the quest for social justice and righteousness, even though these values are not always compatible with criminal survival skills. It’s about wanting to leave something for your children, some indelible impression, for when you’re gone. “Please remember me,” says Uxbal to his 10 year-old daughter Ana as she confronts him about his inevitable expiration, in a scene where the thump of a heartbeat is thoughtfully added to the soundtrack to heighten the catharsis of that turning point moment.

It’s a story about that special gift of human compassion that enables communication with the recently deceased, at that moment when the soul still hovers over the living and can still express regrets or lasting impressions to those who can hear them. Something between Ghost Whisperer and The Sixth Sense, Iñárritu’s tale conveys the unexplainable of life and the inescapable of destiny, against a backdrop of wretched squalor. The movie takes a stab at the dire conditions and exploitation of political and economic refugees that find their way to Spain, among other European countries, where they risk their lives to feed their families.

Biutiful is about coming full circle, finishing where you started, planning your retreat, asking forgiveness and striving to leave something for your children. “Here is a year’s worth of rent, for the children.” Uxbal pushes an enveloppe stuffed with bank notes towards Ige, a Senegalese single mother and refugee whom he can only hope will stay around to feed his children after his impending last breath.

We come out of this film like from an opium den. It’s a totally emphatic experience: Following this really decent guy down the excruciating and debilitating path to oblivion. Everything ends as you know it will, but the relay is given, just as the swarm of moths no longer appear in the corner of the mold-ridden ceiling…. Is it a premonition, a sign, or is he already on the other side, looking in? Life after death transgresses seamlessly beyond thought into the consciousness of the living, to accompany them along their paths. The wheel keeps turning then, and despite the worldly pain of loss, like an ode to the resistance of the soul, the chain of spiritual transmission is not broken.

Biutiful is beautiful. And I’m sorry but death isn’t pretty. And shit happens. All the time. It’s not depressing. It’s how it is. And you should be so happy to be able to touch the world beyond…

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