The title character in “Truman” is a dog belonging to Julián (Ricardo Darín), a veteran stage actor in Madrid who is – based on the worrisome cough he manifests when we meet him – in worse health than his animal companion, an ancient, lumbering giant of a beast who seems to do little other than sleep. Although the movie is named after him, Truman has precious little screen time in this somber yet bittersweet film, though his role as a metaphor is pivotal.
When Julian appears, it is at his apartment door, where his old friend Tomàs (Javier Cámara) has just shown up, unannounced, from Montreal. That surprise visit – coupled with an awkward initial conversation, full of euphemisms, between the two men about Julián’s recent “decision” – makes it clear that this is a film about saying goodbye.
Don’t worry: There aren’t a lot of heavy conversations about death, although that subtext is ever-present, in the wise and oblique screenplay by Spanish director Cesc Gay and writer Tomàs Aragay. Scenes set at the office of Truman’s veterinarian (and the corresponding office of Julián’s doctor) are mostly dry-eyed, although Julián’s matter-of-fact demeanor does crack when he confronts the thought of parting with his faithful companion.
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The dog, played by a droopy-faced bull mastiff named Troilo, represents something here. The life force? Connection? Unconditional love? Maybe all of the above, and more.
Although structured around the dynamic between Julián and Tomàs – one that feels easy and well-worn, like a comfortable shoe – “Truman” is also enriched by several other human encounters. Blunt-spoken cousin Paula (Dolores Fonzi) is a fixture on Julián’s journey, which includes pit stops with his taciturn, college-age son Nico (Oriol Pla), his ex-wife, Gloria (Elvira Mínguez), and a couple of Julián’s frenemies, whom he confronts and/or makes amends with for past transgressions, in random, yet closure-seeking conversations.
Whether finality at leave-taking is even possible remains unclear. “Truman” avoids preachiness as scrupulously as it evades certainty. Paula may want arguments and answers about whether life is worth living. For her, for Tomàs, for Truman, it may be so.
For Julián, the final resolution of life’s mysteries – and the awareness of its preciousness – involves the power to let go of it.
Cast: Ricardo Darín, Javier Cámara, Troilo the dog, Dolores Fonzi, Oriol Pla, Elvira Mínguez
Director: Cesc Gay
Length: 108 minutes
Rating: Unrated (contains obscenity, sex, nudity and drug content)