More noise than signal

Republished from the show notes of my other site, Fuds on Film.

The world of dance is not, I must confess, anything I have any knowledge of, and to be honest, any particular interest in. So, while to many the name Carlos Acosta will need no further introduction, I most certainly do, Handy, then, that Yuli is a biopic of Acosta’s life, through the interesting and achingly meta framing device of Acosta producing, I suppose you’d call it an autobiographical dance production of his life story, while also flashing back to a rather more traditionally told dramatisation of his youth.

It is, in the main more focused on the early years, indeed the very early years as Acosta, played as a nipper by Edlison Manuel Olbera Núñez, doesn’t so much embrace his raw talent for dance as have it forced onto him by his father Pedro (Santiago Alfonso), who, rightly, as it happens, sees it as his escape route from a humble life in Cuba to the household name he no doubt is in more cultured households than mine.

These segments are vibrant and charming, with excellent performances from young Núñez and Alfonso, and it’s this father-son relationship that’s the heart of the film. It’s perhaps a little less engaging when an older Acosta, played by Keyvin Martínez is on his way to conquering the world of dance, while dealing with the separation from his family and the pressures of his position. As for Acosta himself, well, he’s perhaps not a top tier acting talent, but the dance routines interspersed throughout the piece are really quite extraordinary and powerful stuff. Although I’m not convinced that one about the American General belongs in here.

Icíar Bollaín directs, not that you’d know it from her Wikipedia page, get that sorted boffins, reuniting with her Even The Rain screenwriter Paul Laverty, a long time Ken Loach collaborator, and they have done a bang up job, alongside Acosta’s exceptional dance and choreographical talent, in producing a unique and distinctive biopic that’s a joy to watch. I’ve not seen anything quite like it, and I approve of it.