Ricardo Darín, Javier Cámara, Dolores Fonzi
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…moves you profoundly.
Given the universal appeal of The Truman Show, it was almost a risk for this affecting Spanish drama to use that name in the title. Truman, it turns out, is a lugubrious Bull Mastiff belonging to the central character, Julian. He is a sixty-something actor who learns that he has not long to live. He has been single for a while now, and his beloved dog is the focus of his life. Therefore, when putting his affairs in order, his main obsession is to ensure that Truman gets adopted by the right “parent.”
Julian is played by Ricardo Darin (The Secret In Their Eyes), Argentina’s most accomplished actor; his name on the bill of any film should alone be enough to make you rush to the box office. Very few actors from any country have his mesmerising presence and unforced believability. The film is actually a two-hander (well, three if you count Truman), because Julian receives an unexpected visit from his lifelong friend, Tomas (one time Almodovar favourite, Javier Camara), who comes over from Canada to be with him in Madrid. Did Tomas somehow know that Julian has cancer? Did he just decide on a whim to see his friend because they had issues to settle? Either way, it is Julian who is driven by the need to put his affairs in order – including making up with his semi-estranged son who lives in Amsterdam – and Tomas goes along for the ride and pays all the bills.
Most of the film takes places in bars or restaurants (no lock out laws there, one notes), which gives it an easy-going feel that contrasts with the seriousness of the theme. Illness movies, especially terminal illness ones, can easily slide off into being preachy or maudlin. This one doesn’t put a foot wrong, partly owing to Cesc Gay’s assured and humanistic storytelling, and partly, as noted, down to the pitch perfect cast. Julian is never belittling of others who try to help him, but he is entitled to his moments of anger. No one can understand what he is going through from the inside. As he says, with hard earned wisdom, “Every person dies in the best way that they can.” It is almost a shame that one cannot sensibly review this film without alluding to its themes and dramatic issue. Do not be put off though; this is a thoroughly adult piece of storytelling and a film that, whilst never striving for trumpet-blaring transcendence, nevertheless moves you profoundly.