Writing in The New York Times, Karen Durbin takes a look at five breakout performances, including Maricel Alvarez in BIUTIFUL.

“With her majestic nose and modest chin, the acclaimed Argentine stage actress and choreographer Maricel Alvarez may not be conventionally pretty, but it doesn’t matter because she’s captivating,” Durbin writes. “Ms. Alvarez gradually inflects Marambra’s cheerful energy with a sharpening manic edge… At the same time Ms. Alvarez shows us a woman of genuine love and affection trying to resist the wild, exhilarating abyss that beckons her.”

Set in Barcelona’s little-seen underbelly, BIUTIFUL it tells the desperate story of Uxbal, a haggard Javier Bardem, who won the best-actor award at this year’s Cannes film festival. “One would never know that Ms. Alvarez is making her film debut,” Durbin writes. “In giving a tragic dimension to her complex portrayal, she rises to the occasion of Mr. Bardem’s own.”

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