Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu‘s Biutiful, which ended about fifteen minutes ago, is a sad, deeply touching hard-knocks, lower-depths drama in the tradition (or along the lines, even) of Roberto Rosselini‘s Open City or Vittorio DeSica‘s The Bicycle Thief. How’s that for high praise out of the gate?

Set among the poor and deprived in Barcelona, it’s about love and caring and continuity and carrying on among those who have it toughest, and dealing with guilt and tradition and the approaching of death and all the rest of the stuff that we all carry on our backs.

Every actor is exactly right and spot-on in this film, but Javier Bardem gives a truly magnificent performance in the title role of an illegal migrant labor and street-vendor manager-facilitator. He looks right now like the most likely winner of the festival’s Best Actor award just as Biutiful itself seems well-positioned right now to take the Palme D’Or.

It starts out brilliantly, and then slips into a longish character-introducing, character-building, filling-in-the-details phase that goes on for a 90 minutes or so, and then — bit by bit, and then in increasing increments — it starts to emotionally kick in. And that’s when I knew it was delivering something special.

I have to stop writing because the press conference is just starting.