from Catalan director Cesc Gay is a warm, insightful and sensitively portrayed gem about an unspoken friendship between two middle-aged men that is humorous, deeply moving and resonates with truth.
Tomás is played by Javier Cámara—Talk to Her (2002). A Spanish expat living in Montreal, he goes on an introspective trip to visit Julian, his longtime childhood friend in Madrid. Julian is a divorced Argentine actor who lives alone in a downtown Madrid apartment with his loyal aging dog Truman.
What Tomás finds when he arrives at his friend Julian’s apartment is not what he expects and he’s not sure he’s ready to deal with it. What he thinks will be a casual nostalgic reunion between old friends turns into something much more urgent and revealing.
Truman is completely without sentiment as it examines one man’s attempt to take control of his life in the face of a dire diagnosis. After many attempts with various chemotherapy treatments to rid his body of cancer, Julian announces to his close friends that he no longer intends to spend his last days in and out of hospitals.
Ricardo Darín—Wild Tales (2014)—plays Julián with the pressing impulse of a man who knows there is little time left to do the things he feels must be done. He’s not one to indulge in nostalgia but wants to see his son one last time without telling him about his situation. Together with Tomás, they come up with an excuse to travel to Amsterdam where his son studies, so they can meet him and his new girlfriend.
This honest and brave film exposes some of the most difficult decisions that people are faced with when they know the end is near. How do we want to spend those precious last few months or years? And what is really important to us in the end?
These issues are examined in a completely honest but unsentimental way that feels totally authentic with humor and unexpected surprises. The film is a pleasure to behold, and every moment shows us a very contemporary European way of life in its dealing with family, work and pleasure.
Tomás finds himself constantly in socially uncomfortable situations as he observes his friend with genuine concern going through this personal crisis and coming to terms with his past. They engage in some lively arguments but all he can do is try to normalize his friend’s life by giving advice and just being there for him.
We get to see and become familiar with Julian’s surroundings and places he frequents in Madrid; his apartment building, the coffee shops where he meets his friends, the streets he walks through, the vet he takes his dog to, the theatre where he works and the bars he hangs out in.
The story never feels somber because Julian is always on a mission to solve some new problem of what will happen when he’s gone with revealing and thought provoking results. When he tries to avoid someone in a restaurant whose wife he slept with, he is surprised and moved when that person acknowledges him with a warm greeting and courteously enquires about his health.
All these practical chores and daily business of tying up the loose ends of his life have a surprisingly emotional pay-off when it comes time for Tomás to return to his home in Canada, which Julian jokingly keeps referring to as the North Pole or Viking land and variations thereof.
Truman has won five prestigious Goya awards (Spain’s Academy of Cinematic Art and Sciences) including Best Picture, Best Director, and Ricardo Darín and Javier Cámara have both won for Best Actor and Supporting Actor respectively for their performances in Truman.
by John Schwab
Truman movie review