Movies are rarely about just one thing. Each person in a cinema is having a different experience and it is a subjective call for anyone to declare what that movie is really about. This is particularly so with the Spanish film Truman (2015). Described as a comedy drama, some will experience it as a humorous tale of deep male friendship; for others, it is about a man’s love for his dog; but many will feel it as an emotional study about choosing how and when to die when all hope is lost. It is all of the above which makes this film an unusually intense multi-layered story, and it is told with great warmth and honesty.
The linear plot spans a four-day unexpected visit by Tomas (Javier Camara) who has flown from Canada to Madrid to see his long-time friend Julian (Ricardo Darin). Both know it is the last time they will see each other and the time is spent helping Julian settle his affairs, sort out arrangements for the care of his dog Truman, and make a flying visit to his son in Amsterdam. However, what happens in this film is less important than how it happens. Many scenes are touching vignettes about small things that are overlooked when living at full pace. He bumps into a friend who does not know how to talk to a terminally ill man and another who does; there are wordless hugs between a father and son; and the meetings about Truman’s future seem sadder than taking leave from human friends. Throughout all this, the story remains focused on the friendship between two men as they ride the emotional roller-coaster of knowing that time is short. They share humour and tears as only two old friends can, and Julian’s portrayal of brave acceptance holds the story together.
Dramas about loss and grief too easily slip from melancholy to melodrama but there is little of it in Truman. Camara and Darin are superb in their roles, each articulating an emotional language that is expressed through facial expression and voice tone. They reveal their inner selves using minimal dialogue and the free-flowing etched lines on their faces. The story easily gets under your skin with its open, tactile and gentle masculinity, aided by the way that Truman serves as a bitter-sweet metaphor for grief. Julian’s remark that “each person dies as best he can” will be confronting for many but this is one of several recent films that demand an honest conversation about dying.
Director: Cesc Gay
Stars: Javier Camara, Ricardo Darin