Rating : 7/10
Release Date : 20th Oct, 2010
Time : 148 minutes
Director & Writer : Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu; Co-writers : Nicolas Giacobone, Armando Bo; Music : Gustavo Santaolalla
Starring : Javier Bardem, Marciel Alvarez, Hanaa Bouchaib, Guillermo Estrella, Eduard Fernandez, Cheikh Ndiaye, Diaryatou Daff, Cheng Tai Shen, Lang Sofia Lin
This is a film about death. The slow, torturous kind. The kind that announces its intention a long while before coming. That forces you to put your affairs right. A topic that makes me very uncomfortable, especially when you throw in the kids angle as well. Also, its set in Barcelona, one of my favourite cities, a place I’ve visited over 50 times yet have never seen in this light, its almost as if someone has done a Slumdog version of the Catalan capital.
Javier Bardem is not doing too well financially despite having has his fingers in many pies. He supplies goods made in factories full of illegal Chinese immigrants to illegal African immigrants for peddling on the streets. He also pays off the cops to look the other way. And supplies construction sites with more Chinese immigrants as cheap labour. Personally things aren’t going too well either, he’s still trying to adjust to the divorce with his wife (who has severe split personality & drugs related issues) and having to deal with their two young kids. Further intrigue is added by the fact that Javier also has a gift which connects him to people in the afterlife. And he now finds out he has cancer, the terminal sort and has only a couple of months more left.
Javier’s character is really well portrayed. He does illegal things, is human but is a nice person at heart. Wanting to buy heaters for the cramped cold warehouses where the Chinese sleep, building a relationship with one of the African immigrants (and even fighting with the cops for him). Loving his kids but also snapping at them to discipline them. Helping his wife try to overcome her issues. And making money by using his powers to help the relatives of the deceased.
This film is really slow moving yet compelling to watch. New things get thrown at us constantly, new developments, some of which surprise us. Its quite a sensitive portrayal of the plight of illegal immigrants as well, who tolerate sub-human conditions and the pain of being on the wrong side of the law just to earn a few cents more per day. And Javier Bardem is simply brilliant, handling a complex role with ease, totally believable as a man who doesn’t want to exit but is being forced to.
Its not an easy watch and not an easy topic to digest especially given the number of warnings about our own mortality that stare at us everyday. But there was something about the pain, the humane-ness, the sensitivity in Javier’s eyes that made it possible to watch…