I meant to link to David Poland‘s 9.9 review of Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu‘s Biutiful last week, but better late than never. And he’s right on in saying that Inarritu has “probably done the best work of his career here. He’s finally abandoned the triptych.

“So even though Javier Bardem‘s character is still engaged in multiple stories, the film feels whole. It’s the beginning, middle, and end of the story of this piece of this man’s life. And in just weeks of time on screen, there is a real arc…and it doesn’t feel forced.

“There is still plenty of pain and, yes, urine in the film. But unlike previous efforts, it never feels like a stunt or an intentional test of the audience’s tolerance. It feels almost like a documentary about one man — a unique man, allowing for metaphor — and what he might do when faced with singular circumstances after a life of turmoil.

“As a new father, the movie is often brutal, even at its kindest. Futility is a big theme. And the children in the film, including the big one inside Bardem, are endangered repeatedly. But the film allows no easy judgments. There is no black or white. Just a life of gray.

“Personally, just the grime of the walls, floors, everything was hard to watch. And I’m not a neat freak. But the idea of living in that dirty way, and of not really having a choice, was painful. Some days are better that others in that world, but at best, there will always be a grim coat of muck lingering on the surface. Horrifying. And real.

“But there is no denying the beauty, the craftsmanship (a visual theme that is defined late in the movie shows up very early on in very subtle ways…watch the mirrors), and the great passionate storytelling that permeates every scene.

“Consider buckling up and seeing this one in a theater where you can’t hide when it hurts. And it will hurt. You don’t have to love the pain, but you certainly have to respect it.”