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Javier Bardem is on excellent form as the lead character but the metaphors and social critique are layered on a bit too thick in El Buen Patrón.

Earlier this year El Buen Patrón cleaned up at the Spanish version of the Oscars, picking up 6 Goyas from a record-breaking 20 nominations. That is perhaps a few plaudits too many for a movie with plenty of entertainment value but an equal amount of flaws.

The picture centres on one tumultuous week in the life of a company director of a scales factory. Played with gusto by Javier Bardem, the thin veneer between the character's cultured charms and his base human instincts makes for compelling viewing in a lot of scenes, but the metaphors and social critique are layered on a bit too thick, while several storylines rely on tired old stereotypes and predictable suspense.

Not helping either is the unnecessary long runtime of two hours, a milquetoast directorial style and a denouement that wraps up the various narratives rather too neatly. Still, when El Buen Patrón focuses on the mannerisms of both Bardem and the well-cast supporting players, the picture has enough humour and charms to keep you effortlessly entertained.

release: 2021

director: Fernando León de Aranoa

starring: Javier Bardem, Manolo Solo, Almudena Amor, Óscar de la Fuente


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