If you’re looking for subtlety, you won’t find it the films of Mexican filmmaker director Alejandro González Iñárritu (21 Grams, Babel). But you probably won’t find a more powerful performance by an actor this year than the one given by Javier Bardem, who won the Best Actor award in Cannes for his bravura turn in this visceral melodrama. On the page, the narrative might seem over-ripe, but the cinematography and editing are so breathtakingly good it comes across as pure verité. Bardem stars as a former drug dealer in Barcelona who brokers black-market jobs for illegal Chinese immigrants while struggling to contain his bi-polar prostitute girlfriend and come to terms with his own life-threatening illness. Us usual, Iñárritu loads up the plot and pathos, which may aggravate the sensibilities of more refined cinephiles, but Bardem’s brilliance and the raw frisson of the filmmaking make Biutiful a must-see.
Biutiful premieres at TIFF on September 10, with an additional screening September 11