Javier Bardem's justly Oscar-nominated performance notwithstanding, Alejandro González Iñárritu's latest dreary opus is more linear than previous efforts but twice as drab. Welcome to the mean streets of Barcelona, where the homeless fill squalid doorsteps, while animal carcasses and immigrant laborers alike wash ashore. Amid the squalor, Uxbal (Bardem), a shady entrepreneur and single father dying of cancer, struggles to ascertain who—other than his junkie/ prostitute ex-wife—will raise his two children after he dies. It's a premise that evokes thoughts of The Road
, with a backdrop just as dismal. Bardem is terrific, with a performance so achingly authentic that it's hard to watch but impossible to look away. Still, the diffuse parts of Iñárritu's screenplay never coalesce into a coherent whole. The film's title is meant to be ironic, but probably not to the point of near-parody.