Studio: FilmRise
Directed by Cesc Gay

Apr 13, 2017 Web Exclusive
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There are some actors whose mere presence guarantees enough quality to pique interest. Argentinian veteran Ricardo Darín fits into this category, capable of channeling calm undercurrents of charisma in any direction required. He does just that in Truman, but while his turn as a struggling actor elevates the whole affair, there’s already a strong enough base to ensure this comedy-drama avoids blurring the two genres together until neither works.

Nor does Darín have to do it all alone. His aging and dying actor Julián is part of a two-hander when his old friend Tomás visits from Canada. Tomás is played by Javier Cámara who has recently been the solid counterpoint to Jude Law’s extravagance in The Young Pope. Much of Cesc Gay’s Goya winning film features the two men wandering about Madrid as Julián reveals his situation and makes plans for the inevitable end.

What Truman does so well is restraint. The comedy is rare and deadpan, the dramatic highpoints sudden and unexpected. Sometimes they come together. Julián quizzing a vet on the emotional loss a dog feels, or vehemently shaking his head at the thought of an urn for sea burial brings melancholic laughs. Darín steps from these naïve moments into poignancy with ease. Wrapped in a hug with his adult son, or facing life without his beloved dog sees his face immediately crumple before he throws up an element of control again.

Which brings us to the dog. The Truman of the title is his beloved pet, who he needs to home soon before he’s no longer able to care for him. The two friends visit a couple of potential households, but it’s never a part of the story that rings true, feeling more like a vehicle to advance plot than a convincing element of Julián’s endgame. Gay’s film even seems to forget all about the dog for a while, wrapping itself up in Julián, Tomás, and the former’s cousin Paula (Dolores Fonzi) who also lives in Madrid.

When the animal does reappear at the end, it’s only to provide an element of closure that feels forced in the context of an otherwise convincing evocation of grief and acceptance. If time spent with the animal, cute as he is, adds little, the same isn’t true of Julián and Tomás who capture what it’s like to face the unfaceable, and reconnect after their lives have taken them to very different places. This is more than enough to make Truman worth the effort.

Author rating: 7/10

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