European Film Week films:
Review: ‘Truman’ Focuses on a Man Whose Days Are Numbered
Art and Experience: The title character in “Truman” is a dog, but this film’s director, Cesc Gay, does not excessively exploit him for cheap sentiment. Given the film’s story — about Julián (Ricardo Darín), an actor dying of cancer in Madrid, and Tomás, an old friend (Javier Cámara) who visits him for four days — it must have been tempting.
This well-made, low-key drama, written by Mr. Gay and Tomàs Aragay, offers some insights into terminal illness. Julián, a hacking, aging voluptuary, chastises a couple he knows for avoiding him in public because of their inability to face his illness. And he apologizes to a longtime acquaintance, whose wife he once seduced, for causing his divorce. Certainly, Julián, played with grizzled authority by Mr. Darín, is no saint: Visiting his son, Nico (Oriol Pla), who attends college in Amsterdam, he tries to hide the extent of his condition, only to learn afterward that his ex-wife had already informed Nico of it.
The through line here is Julián’s attempt to find a home for Truman, his beloved bull mastiff. Again, mawkishness is largely sidestepped. But “Truman” has a different flaw: its insistence on excusing tired standards of machismo, however understated. The friend victimized by Julián’s affair with his wife? He is happily remarried to a much younger woman, now pregnant. The quietly supportive Tomás can express his grief over Julián’s coming demise only while in bed with Julián’s cousin, Paula (Dolores Fonzi), after making love — that is, by cheating on his own wife. There is sensitivity in “Truman,” but only so much.