What comes to your mind when you think of Spain? Perhaps gothic cathedrals, Antoni Gaudi architecture and lush park lands? Well director, Alejandro González Iñárritu wants to change that image and that is exactly what he does in his latest film “Biutiful”. His vision sheds an entirely different light on the same city also full of poverty and illegal immigrants. Javier Bardem stars as Uxbal a provider of illegal goods to a ring of illegal bootlegging made in Chinese sweatshops and distributed by African immigrants. Uxbal deep down inside is a family man. Not only to his own but those of the people he is arguably exploiting. He works to support his young daughter and son while keeping his estranged and adulterer wife at a healthy distance from his beloved children. He loves her lifestyle makes it difficult to include her in the family. To make matters even worse, doctors have given Uxbal just a few short months to live after diagnosing him with prostate cancer. But this is just the beginning of a very grim and depressing ride, which Iñárritu takes us on over the course of the next two and a half hours. Bardem’s portrayal of Uxbal is simply breathtaking. Recently Oscar nominated for his work in the film, Bardem is enthralling to watch from the first frame until the last. The direction is extraordinary as well. Director Iñárritu captures Barcelona in such a fashion that shades of Michelangelo Antonioni’s “The Passenger” often comes to mind while admiring the film. Rodrigo Prieto has once again teamed with Iñárritu as cinematographer and his work here is just as thrilling as it has ever been. The film is beyond bleak and Prieto captures that in all its self-loathing glory. Iñárritu has been criticized in the past for making the same film over and over again but I must say he really outdoes himself with this one. For the first time, the director has written a screenplay without frequent collaborating writer Guillermo Arriaga. As a result he has written a straight-forward and linear story this time around, which for the most part succeeds. The film is quite possibly his most grim film to date, but functions perfectly as a fascinating character study performed flawlessly by Javier Bardem making “Biutiful” essential viewing. “Biutiful” opens today (Friday February 4th) at the Cedar Lee Theatre in Cleveland Heights.