Julien is dying. He has decided to abandon his cancer treatments and live his remaining days free of the side effects of chemotherapy. We know this from the opening moments of Truman, the new character drama from Spanish writer/director Cesc Gay.
As the film begins, Tomas, his life-long best friend, has arrived for a surprise visit, and both men know these are the last few days they are likely to spend together. Tomas hopes to persuade Julien to continue his medical fight, but doesn’t want to alienate his friend at such a critical time.
One of Julien’s dying wishes is to find a new home for his loyal dog, Truman. He meets with his veterinarian to discuss the psychology of dogs separating from their masters. He interviews adoptive families and tries to determine the best fate for his canine companion. It’s easier for Julien to focus on Truman than it is for Julien to think about Julien.
This brief description could lead you to conclude that Truman is a depressing, maudlin film. It isn’t. It could also lead you to think that the film is Turner and Hooch Face Death, a wacky adventure about a dying man and his dog. Thankfully, it isn’t that, either. Truman is a quiet film about the realities of wrapping up a life and processing the thoughts and emotions that come with such an impossible task
Truman features wonderful, lived-in performances from Ricardo Darin (Nine Queens, The Secret in Their Eyes) and Javier Camara (Talk to Her). The relationship between Julien and Tomas drives the entire film, and the audience can feel their life-long connection without the need for exposition or backstory to fill in the details. Every moment of the film rings true, and that’s largely due to the strength of these two performances.
Despite our 21st century tendencies to “live out loud” on social media and share every aspect of our lives with near-strangers, the average person still finds death to be a difficult subject. We try to soften the impact of it by using expressions like “passed away” or “expired”. We avoid the subject with friends and relatives who are living out their final days as if ignoring the subject is some kind of solution. Why? Maybe it’s due to the misguided belief that refusing to acknowledge our own mortality will somehow enhance the days we have left.
Truman is not a ground-breaking film. This cinematic ground has been trod upon many, many times before. However, the film explores its themes with such subtlety and with a refreshing lack of melodrama that audiences will find much to savor in its 108 minutes.
Truman opens at Landmark Theatre locations across the country on Friday, April 28, 2017.
The Movie Isle
Scott Phillips holds a degree in print journalism from the University of Georgia and is currently a member of the Georgia Film Critics Association (GAFCA). In addition to his role as a correspondent for Timed Edition, Scott serves as the Executive Editor and Senior Writer for themovieisle.com. From 2013 through 2017, he reviewed films for filmdispenser.com. Along with his duties as a critic, Scott serves as the Content Programmer for the Way Down Film Festival held in Columbus, Georgia every fall.