Archive for February 3rd, 2011

The Biutiful Hereafter

I have seen two movies this week, they are strangely similar whilst been completely different at the same time. They share an underlying theme and subject matter and are both departures from what we expect of their directors. One is critically acclaimed, the other poorly received.

Biutiful: Set in Barcelona that looks darker and bleaker than Barcelona has ever looked, Javier Bardem plays Uxbal, a troubled man. Working as a sort of organiser/enforcer for a Chinese criminal who manufactures and sells counterfeit goods on the streets. Early in the movie Uxbal is diagnosed with cancer and told he only has a few months to live. As he attempts to put his life in order he is confronted with issues including the welfare of immigrant workers, his estranged wife’s bipolar disorder and most importantly what will happen to his kids when he is gone. He also has the psychic ability to see and communicate with dead people, whether this is a gift or a curse is suggested but never really explored. Is Uxbal on a path to redemption or doom? The one thing that elevates the movie is a fantastic (Oscar nominated) performance from Javier Bardem.

Moving away from director Alejandro González Iñárritu’s multiple storylines of his previous movies does not make this movie any less complex, there is a lot going on. I’m just not sure what it all means, unless I am missing something the movie fails to really convey any deeper meaning beyohond, life is tough, we all die and there may be a afterlife. Is it an existential journey or story of redemption? Ultimately I walked away from the movie emotionally drained but not necessarily enlightened or fulfilled.

Hereafter: Clint Eastwood gives us what Alejandro González Iñárritu has moved away from, a plot containing multiple characters and storylines that are in some way conected. After nearly drowning in a flood caused by a tsunami French TV journalist Marie LeLay (Cécile De France) takes time of work to research a book into death and afterlife. Twin brothers Marcus and Jason (George and Frankie McLaren) look after their junkie mother, when one of the boys is killed, his brother has a hard time adjusting and seeks out psychic help to maintain their bond. San Francisco factory worker, George (Matt Damon) is dragged back into a life he has walked away from when his brother convinces him to give a psychic reading.

The thing that works best about the movie is the interaction between the characters in particular Matt Damon and Bryce Dallas Howard whose scenes together are brief but brilliant. The inclusion of Cécile De France is also welcome, a talented actress probably best known for Switchblade Romance (aka Haute tension). Despite a deliberately slow pace and a two hour plus running time the movie is never dull. The biggest problem with the movie is the London scenes, the kids playing the twins simply can’t act. The vision of London is one dimensional and clichéd and the story is the weakest in the movie. Despite lot of death and destruction Hereafter is a lot lighter in tone than Biutiful, this makes it more accessible, but does it make it a better film? The simple answer is that it doesn’t, but it certainly doesn’t make it worse. And that is probably the most important thing about the two movies, they both succeed and fail in the same ways, they are both flawed but have good things about them.

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