Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Cesc Gay
Winner of five Goya Awards (the Spanish equivalent of the Oscars), this bittersweet comedy/drama about two men and a dog screened during the recent Spanish Film Festival earlier in the year. It was one of the more popular films in the festival and now it gets a cinema release. This amusing and deeply affecting film deals with universal themes of friendship, mortality, coming to terms with death, and it is sure to appeal to audiences.
Julian (played by Argentinian actor Ricardo Darin, from Wild Tales, etc) is an Argentinian actor who has relocated to Madrid where he performs regularly on stage and television. He has been diagnosed with cancer, and after undergoing chemotherapy for a year he has decided to stop the treatment. He is resigned to his fate and sets about setting his affairs in order. Most importantly though he is trying to find someone to care for his beloved pet bullmastiff Truman, and has approached neighbours and strangers.
His childhood friend Tomas (played by Spanish actor Javier Camara, from Living Is Easy With Eyes Closed, etc) relocated to Montreal but arrives in Madrid for a surprise visit. he hopes to change Julian’s mind and convince him to go back to treatment. Tomas is sensible and restrained whereas Julian is more volatile and emotional in nature. Over the course of the next four days the two men reconnect as they wander the streets of Madrid, talking about their lives, loves, regrets and the future. There is also a side trip to Amsterdam where Julian briefly visits his son, whom he hasn’t told about his decision.
Truman is largely a two hander as it follows the two friends, although there are a few secondary characters with whom they briefly interact, including Julian’s concerned and embittered sister Paula (Dolores Fonzi). The film has been directed by Cesc Gay (A Gun In Each Hand, etc), who handles the material in understated and sympathetic fashion. A droll vein of humour permeates the material. Gay, who co-scripted the film with Tomas Aragay, avoids becoming too sentimental, although the ending is effectively moving. The pacing is leisurely and gives audiences plenty of time to identify with Julian and Tomas.
Camara and Darin are two of the most popular stars in their respective countries and they develop an easy going rapport here that seems natural. Gay’s warm, honest and humorous script gives the two actors plenty to sink their teeth into and they reveal different layers to their characters. Darin is reunited with Gay, who directed him in A Gun In Each Hand, and he delivers a soulful and subtle performance here. Camara’s low key and sympathetic performance here as the stoic Tomas offers a nice contrast. And the dog who plays the titular Truman is also superb; with its sad eyes and hangdog expression it has a warm and humorous presence.
Gay and his cinematographer Andreu Rebes (A Gun In Each Hand, etc) make the most of the scenic Madrid locations, which add to the film’s winning flavour.
Truman is a winning, low key and moving variation on the familiar buddy comedy sub genre.