It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
"Bullhead" contains the elements for a simple but overwhelming personal tragedy. It also contains other elements that create a muddle. It's one of those films you have to reconstruct in your mind. It involves Jacky, a low-level Belgian farmer and criminal, who is paralyzed by fear and insecurity about his masculinity. Because he has easy access to testosterone and animal-growth hormones, he uses them to build muscle and body mass. The supplements have turned him into a raging bull.
I understand why "Bullhead" was one of this year's nominees for foreign film Oscar. I'm not sure it was one of best five in the running, but that goes with the territory. It impresses because of the pain, sadness and rage contained in the title performance by Flemish actor Matthias Schoenaerts, who bulked up for the role (without steroids), and seems ready to burst from his clothes and even his skin.
He had something happen to him when he was young. It happened on the very day he first took notice that girls have breasts. This was during a talk with his best friend Diederik (Jeroen Perceval), as they regarded the sister of a neighbor. It was one of those talks many children have in which the facts of life fall into place with a blinding insight. Yes, you know about such things in a distracted sort of incomplete way, because they aren't especially interesting to you. Then suddenly they become the most important things in your life.
As a boy, young Jacky is a handsome mophead with a sunny personality. On that day, everything changed. We meet the adult Jacky at the start of the film, we see him consumed by sudden angers and intimidating people for his uncle, who raises beef cattle. We learn about animal-growth hormone, which they use, and in his bathroom, we see a little refrigerator containing countless bottles, vials and syringes of such drugs.