Biutiful opens with a stark scene of snowy woods and ends with the same image. In between, there are moments that are disturbing, thought provoking, and heart wrenching.

Javier Bardem is Uxbal, the morally compromised father of two struggling to keep together the semblance of a home for his children while dealing with his estranged wife, Marambra who suffers from bipolar disorder. Uxbal also possesses the ability to communicate with the dead at the moment in which their souls transition to the after life.

Uxbal makes a living as a go between illegal immigrants and employers all too willing to exploit them. Through him we see the corrupt system that exists due to the greed, frailty and flaws of humanity; the police officer on the take who justifies his actions because he has a family to feed; the Chinese owner of a sweatshop who exploits his own people; the immigrants fighting to make it in a strange land, and Uxbal who is brutally forced to face his own culpability in the whole cycle.

Javier Bardem and Maricel Álvarez are heartbreaking as the on-again; off-again couple who love each other yet keep deeply wounding the other.  Bardem’s Oscar nomination is well deserved. In fact, none of the actors miss a beat including the child actors who are touching and natural.

Biutiful is intended to make you think and feel. If the silence from the audience as the credits rolled is any indication, it succeeds all the way.

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