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.


An earlier version of this review misspelled the name of the character played by Dolores Fonzi. She is Paula, not Paola. Because of mistaken information provided by a publicist, the review also misstated Paula’s relation to Julián. She is his cousin, not his sister.