Dir: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Country: Spain, Mexico, UK
This work is an accomplished, desperately harrowing tale of death and globalisation. It left me more distraught than I have ever felt at the cinema. 147 minutes of misery, I spent much of the film either sobbing for the plight of its’ characters or hating myself for having what I consider a good life.
Javier Bardem, arguably the Spanish language’s best actor of his generation, plays Uxbal, a man dying of prostate cancer who lives on the margins of society in a rough district of Barcelona. Uxbal ekes out a living for himself and his two children by finding work for illegal immigrants and taking a cut from their employers. Although some would argue that Uxbal is exploiting these people, the film makes it clear that he cares deeply about their welfare, certainly more than many of the other characters in the film. The Barcelona that we see is a far cry from the one that many of us in Northern Europe think of. It’s an industrial metropolis of dingy slums, sweatshops and police brutality. Bardem (in a stunning performance) is in almost every scene in the film, looking drawn and steeped in the agonies of his character. Scenes are shot in grainy, super-saturated colour, drenched in symbolism. Occasional ghostly moments blend with the grimy realities of the characters’ existences.
I couldn’t bear watching this film. However I can’t fault it either. It represents the pitfalls of the 21st century Western economy, which is why it’s so important that films like this are made.
I never want to see it again.