Click here to return to the main site.

Blu-ray Review

DVD cover



Starring: Javier Bardem, Marciel Álvarez and Hanaa Bouchaib
Optimum Home Entertainment
RRP: £19.99
Certificate: 15
Available 16 May 2011

Uxbal is a man of conflicting emotions and loyalties. Running a small time criminal empire, which covers anything from selling drugs to exploiting Chinese immigrant workers, he is also father to two children and husband to his separated wife who suffers from bipolar disorder. Uxbal has few scruples, even using his talent of speaking to the recently deceased to make a few extra buck. Things change in Uxbal’s world when he discovers that he has only a few months to live before his cancer kills him, the shock of this news send Uxbal down a path looking for redemption...

Biutiful (2010 - 2 hr, 27 min, 43 sec) is a detailed character study directed and co-written by Alejandro González Iñárritu. The film stars Javier Bardem, Maricel Álvarez and Hanaa Bouchaib, with Bardem gaining many award nominations for his portrayal of the central character.

This is not an easy film to watch, in one sense very little happens during the two and a half hours. The film initially shows Uxbal (Javier Bardem) as not completely amoralistic, he does what he does in order to feed his children (played by Guillermo Estrella and Hanaa Bouchaib) and given his and their meagre circumstances he is not a particularly successful criminal. His bigger concerns in his life is his brother, Tito (Eduard Fernández), who is sleeping with Uxbal’s ex-wife Marambra (Maricel Álvarez) who is as flaky as they come. He has run in’s with the law, but tries to treat those below him with fairness.

It is fair to say that we do not witness a complete about face, when Uxbal is told he has only months to live, that would have been crass and unbelievable. Bardem creates a character whose innate decency has been subverted by the necessity of earning a living, possibly the only way he knows how. Even with the petty criminal underground he tries to do the right thing, looking after the family of one of his drug runners when the father is deported, buying heaters for the Chinese workers. Sometimes his good works bear fruit, sometimes they end in tragedy.

Being essentially about a single character, a lot comes down to Bardem’s performance, which is mesmerising, even when the dialog is thin, Bardem’s expressive features and sorrowful eyes conveys everything the audience needs to know about Uxbal's feelings, whether it is the love he has for the children or the horror at the death of all the Chinese workers.

The film's direction and cinematography are a delight; I had no idea that Barcelona could look so shabby and run down. The privation of the slums is juxtaposed with the lights of the prosperous parts of town, only on the horizon, seeming geographically near, but in reality a world away.

The presentation in 2.3:1 with a strong pallet, whether were in the crisp snow covered woods, or the grimiest of hovels. The audio is Spanish, with burned in subtitles. The track is either 2.0 Stereo LPCM or 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, both show clarity, especially with dialog and the score.

There are some extras, the longest of which is the Director’s Flip Notes (21 min, 43 sec) which is a record that Alejandro González Iñárritu made of the filming process, adding his own thoughts and insights at the time. The rest of the extras are small pieces, including interviews with Javier Bardem (3 min, 12 sec), Maricel Álvarez (2 min, 35 sec) and Eduard Fernández (2 min, 29 sec). Their brevity means that they are little more than sound bite adverts for the movie. Biutiful Crew (4 min, 01 sec) has shots of the crew involved in the film - great for their relatives, not so great for a general audience. The disc is wrapped up with two trailers A (2 min, 22 sec) and B (2 min).

It is not an easy film to watch but it is, in its own strange way, a rewarding experience, if for no other reason than to watch Javier Bardem’s performance.


Charles Packer

Buy this item online

We compare prices online so you get the cheapest deal
Click on the logo of the desired store below to purchase this item.

£14.93 (
£14.99 (
£14.99 (

All prices correct at time of going to press.