Tomás didn’t want to make the trip. But he knew if he didn’t visit his old friend, Julián, “I’d regret it later.”
Julián (Ricardo Darín) is an Argentine actor who has made his life in Madrid. And now, that life is coming to an end. Getting that husky, smoker’s growl has a cost — lung cancer.
People, old friends/colleagues, “don’t know what to say to me,” he tells Tomás. And Tomás (Javier Cámara) is no different. He’s often on the verge of tears. But he manned up, made the trip, even puts up with Julián’s aged, limping-drooling mastiff, Truman. It’s just for a few days, after all.
“Truman” is a soft-voiced Spanish melodrama about the final stages of death and dying. Julián has reached “acceptance.” Over the course of a four day visit, he drags Tomás into that stage with him.
But it’s going to be messy — sometimes amusingly so. Julián hasn’t told everybody — not his employer, the producer of the 18th century costume comedy he’s starring in, not his son away at college.
Julián is pretty much broke, which leaves Tomás to pick up a lot of checks, pay a dog walker, finance a last-minute flight to visit Julián’s son.
He’s most concerned about the dog. “Do dogs experience grief?” Tomás accompanies Julián to the vet, to interviews with people who might adopt the dog.
Tomás must deal with Julián’s sister (Dolores Fonzi), angry, worn-down yet vivacious and not as accepting of her sibling’s fate as that sibling is.
Cámara, best known for the Spanish import “Living is Easy With Eyes Closed,” about a teacher/Beatles fan trying to visit the set of a John Lennon filming in Spain in the ’60s, has a marvelous resignation about him. He makes Tomás a bit put-upon, unwilling to stand up to his friend’s many impositions even as he complains about them.
Darín, of “The Secret in Their Eyes,” has the swagger of a fading matinee idol, insensitive to the many ways his decisions are impositions on others. His Julián is also warm and charming and you easily believe others would bend to his easygoing will.
“Truman” doesn’t take us on a long journey, and despite the hook of naming it after the dog, we don’t get much of a sense of Julián’s undying affection for him. Truman is a life passage he’s about to finish, someone who was always there, through a divorce, good times and bad. Saying goodbye to the dog is saying “adios” to life.
But director and co-writer Cesc Gay (“Nico and Dani”) keeps the melancholy light and never lets the picture feel morose. “Truman” becomes a bittersweet character study in death and friendship, a film that lets the sweet overcome the bitter.
MPAA Rating: Unrated, with adult subject matter, explicit sex