Truman (2015) – A Refined Heart-Felt Take on a Timeworn Subject

By Arun Kumar

Featured in IMDb Critic Reviews

Cesc Gay's Spanish-Argentinian drama Truman (2015) has two basic ingredients to cook up a tiring schmaltzy movie: dog and cancer. Yet, the script (from Cesc Gay & Tomas Aragay) for the most part explores the theme of death with incredible nuance and tact. The chief attraction of Truman is its cast. Argentinian actor Ricardo Darin (The Secret in their Eyes, The Aura) once again excels in playing a character with troubled fate. His sad eyes and quite resignation easily brings upon an impact on viewers. Spanish actor Javier Camara (Talk to Her, Bad Education) is equally restrained in a role that shuns run-of-the-mill cinematic emotions. 'Truman' won in all the major categories of Goya Awards (Spanish Academy awards) and received standing ovation at San Sebastian Festival. It’s a story we have often seen in cinema, yet the narrative approach here is more matured and honest.

Truman opens at snowy Canada. In a wonderful, wordless sequence Tomas (Camara) gets ready and says good bye to his family and hops on to a plane. It’s a fairly long journey. Tomas’ destination -- as we learn through the flag decorating the hotel – is Barcelona, Spain. Tomas' reticent manner suggests the trip isn’t official. Soon, he is in front of the door step of his oldest best friend Julian (Ricardo Darin). Tomas has come to say ‘goodbye’ to his friend, who had decided to stop chemotherapy after confirming that there are no tangible ways to fully cure his lung cancer. Tomas and Julian haven’t met for few years. It’s not that the friends share some bruised past. Tomas’ move to Canada and his family life has naturally caused the rift. Julian is a well-known stage actor, whose narcissistic tendencies had left him to live alone. He showers his love on the giant pooch Truman. Among the vital things, Julian has to do before his death is to find a new home for Truman.

Truman makes a surprise visit to see his son studying in Amsterdam, which leads to the film's most endearing scene
It’s easier said than done, since most of people would look for puppies rather than adopt old dogs which has only few years left to live. Nevertheless, the film isn’t about Tomas and Julian’s single-minded quest to find home for the titular character. The canine companion is more like a symbol. Julian seems to have accepted his imminent fate and talks about things to do in a relaxed manner. The dog, however, represents the little desire the headstrong guy still has for life. Initially, Tomas feels that his 4-day trip is about giving emotional support and financial support. But, Tomas is somewhat at a loss, regarding the ways to provide emotional support. Since the narrative (mostly) perspective moves between two characters, the focus is kept on their repressed emotions, regarding this upcoming major loss.

Tomas doesn’t give any profound speech to cheer up his friend. Julian possesses a nonchalant attitude towards his own death and so he doesn’t need Tomas’ shoulders to cry on. Yet, the friendship they share seem closer to reality and truth. These circumstances definitely lead to some genuinely touching moments and also moments of grim humor. Julian going through all the details about his cremation (while also deciding on economically viable plan) with a mortician is an example of the film’s excellent deadpan comedy. The trip to Amsterdam to meet Julian’s estranged son was staged in a poignant manner. Eventually, 'Truman' does fall a little short of being a totally unique rendering of a man confronting death. The primary reason for that is its third-act, which doesn’t create the desired emotional impact (the subjugated schmaltz factor kicks-in in those final scenes). 

A gathering of the old friends. Argentinian actress Dolores Fonzi (centre) does a fine job in playing Truman's overprotective, frustrated sister
Director Cesc Gay excels in showcasing the emotional distance between the estranged friends. The emotional distance is at first suggested through the literal distance (between Canada and Spain) and then through their uncommunicative or reticent behavior. So, the little adjustments in the status quo creates fine emotional resonance without the necessity of a contrived, dark past. The movie genuinely earns our tears, when the two central characters step out of their restricted emotional zone to reach each other.  For the two-thirds of the script, Cesc Gay doesn’t stick to basic formulas of cancer drama or he transcends the familiar (supported perfectly by splendid performers). And, unlike most of the buddy dramedy, the male characters here are so restrained. There are references to their selfish, narcissistic behavior, but they don’t turn into caricatures of masculinity.

Often, we experience dramas that are about characters’ struggle with painful death. Here, Ricardo Darin’s gloomy eyes are enough to pass off the characters’ physical and emotional pain to the viewers. There aren’t any extra efforts taken to insist on his physical struggle. The director rather focuses on the events after the acceptance. It concentrates more on what a person does to face death with few regrets. From Julian to the dog Truman, everyone is in pain (literal or emotional), and by the time the film ends, the pain somewhat lessens (there’s no magic to save themselves from pain). Nonetheless, the director may be coerced to include few conventional turns – like the predictable sex scene or overly sentimental closure. These faults, of course, don’t totally ruin the film from being a fine examination of loss and its afflictions.

Truman (108 minutes) may sound like yet another melodramatic tale about the final days of cancer. But, Ricardo Darin’s brilliant performance and the absence of cloying sentimentality distinguishes it among the other commonplace narrative. 

Readers, please feel free to share your opinion by leaving your comments. As always your valuable thoughts are highly appreciated!   

People who liked this also liked...
Share on Google Plus


Post a Comment

Thanks for sharing for valuable opinion. We would be delighted to have you back.