This film has many aspects to it and requires more than one viewing. It has several layers, including a theme of redemption through Uxbal's children, Ana and Mateo.
Uxbal basically earns a living through the underground of Barcelona, and provides cheap labor and street merchants.He is also diagnosed with prostate cancer, in late stage.
His estranged wife Mirambra is bipolar and works as a sometime massage girl, her lifestyle is disjointed and confused.
The streets of the city are frenetic and colorful, appalling yet beautiful. The contrasts here are shown through his caring for the children . Mateo a 6 year old and his sister Ana, the actress portraying Ana deserves mention, she is especially sad and effective, played by Hanaa Boachio.
Overall, the photography bespeaks of a lost world, lost people trying to do the best they can to survive. Uxbal tries to help Chineses illegals by purchasing heaters for the warehouse, but a tragedy occurs. His soul is besieged with guilt, also knowing as he tells his fortune teller friend that he will leave is children behind in a hostile world, he does not expect the universe to "take care" of them.
The photography of the city at night especially is beautiful, flocks of birds taking off from the bridge, the steel and cold of the city, a mother walking her newborn in a carriage. There are also some redemptive scenes wherein he helps Ige, the wife of a Senegalese merchant who was arrested, to stay in his apartment with her newborn baby.
There is a good story here, excellent performance by Javier Bardem who manages to get empathy although his character is unsavory in this film. The city and its environs as a backdrop add to the narrative, plus evocative and disturbing photography. Highly recommended.
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