Biutiful

When I started writing book and film recommendations back when we started out in 2003, the idea was that they should help promote the ‘feel good’ factor that I always wanted hush to promote – a kind of complement to putting on your pyjamas and curling up on the sofa.

However, it quickly became clear that there weren’t that many books or films whose subject matter was always upbeat – and those there were were not the kind of things I would want to read or watch.

Biutiful is a case in point. Set in the Barcelona underworld, this is the city – seedy, dirty, violent - that you certainly don’t see in Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona.

But not only is it undoubtedly the better film (and more enjoyable to watch because of it), but in some ways it is also more uplifting than Allen’s romantic comedy.

I have to say I would watch Javier Bardem, who is in both, in a haemorrhoids commercial. He is a stunning actor, but for me his best roles have been in Spanish-language films, such as The Sea Inside (one of my all-time favourites) and now Biutiful.

In this latter, he plays Uzbal, a single father struggling at the same time to make financial ends meet as a criminal middleman in the Barcelonan underworld, to make a better life for his two children and to deal with the prostate cancer that is killing him.

It is undeniably bleak and the film is unsentimental, but the overall impression we have is of a decent man trying to do the right thing in a desperate environment.

Feel good? Not exactly, but a very powerful couple of hours of cinema…