Year: 2015 (2017 US release)
Director(s): Cesc Gay
Writer(s): Cesc Gay, Tomas Aragay
Region of Origin: Spain, Argentina

Rating: Unrated
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Digital, Color, 108 mins

Synopsis: Julian receives an unexpected visit from his friend Tomas. The two men, accompanied by Julian’s faithful dog, Truman, will share emotional and surprising moments prompted by Julian’s complicated situation. (Source)

Every person dies as best they can. That statement is lifted from a pivotal moment in Cesc Gay’s Truman, and is the profound truth that anchors the director’s latest film. Gay’s definitive bromance is a sobering last hurrah, bringing together two friends for a whirlwind week as they prepare to part ways for the last time. Though the film takes on potentially downbeat material, Gay revels in warmth and vibrancy, celebrating the relationship between life and death, specifically how both ideas are meaningless without the other. If there’s a singular truth that rings the loudest, however, it’s that life isn’t perfect, and that nothing matters more than the people and friendships we leave behind. In turn, stars Ricardo Darin and Javier Camara are irresistible together, bringing genuine chemistry and empathy to a devastating situation. Ultimately, Gay’s film is uplifting and infectious without being cloyingly manipulative, focusing on the unbreakable bonds that make life worth living despite its cruel irony.

Things kick off when a teacher named Tomas (Javier Camara) leaves his snow-swept Canadian home to visit his best friend, Julian (Ricardo Darin), in Madrid. This isn’t any ordinary surprise visit however, and we soon find out that after a rough month, Julian has decided to forgo any more treatment to his terminal cancer – he doesn’t want to prolong the inevitable, but wants to go out knowing that he’s lived a full life. At the very least, Tomas has come to talk him out of the decision, but Julian won’t have any of it. They decide to let his decision be, spending the next four days together as Julian attempts to tie up loose ends, including finding a home for his dog, Truman. Picking up without missing a beat, the two friends reflect on how fast time has gone, have a few good drinks and pack in a spontaneous adventure along the way.

With its brisk pace, Gay’s film confronts death in a brave way that few films dare to achieve. There’s a candid sincerity to every scene, with Gay’s direction letting the performances do all the heavy lifting. Made up of chance encounters, free-form spontaneity and sparse conversations in which the point is understood without having to be said, Gay weaves a story made up of truths we’d rather not talk about until it’s too late. In that way, Tomas and Julian’s relationship is liberating because it focuses on the small exchanges and actions we take for granted on the daily. As everyone around the two friends walks on egg shells in terms of Julian’s mortality, Gay makes us realize the importance each person has – that we never really realize their impact until we’re faced with never experiencing it again. Still, the film also addresses that fact that we live on through the people we leave behind and the memories that we make, and that there’s no such thing as something trivial in a life that can disappear in the blink of an eye.

As the plot is built on a towering cinematic relationship, the film’s cast is its greatest asset. Javier Camara plays the long-suffering Tomas, maintaining a hidden strength and bravery that is utterly affecting. There’s such sincerity in this performances that it’s disarming and never less than irresistible. There’s a lot that this character has to balance, and Camara plays it off in the most organic way, tying together the myriad of human complexity with keen sensitivity. Ricardo Darin’s Julian is the perfect contrast to Camara’s Tomas, a bit looser, but never less genuine. There’s a natural charm to Darin, who’s character uses sly humor in a way that reminds us to never take anything too seriously. The poeticism of this trait is astounding, and Darin exudes a calming presence that directly contrasts with the urgency of his situation. Lastly, Dolores Fonzi has a small, but powerful role as Paula, Julian’s harried sister. Ponzi wears her heart on her sleeve, making Paula’s worries manifest in ways that are transparent but completely genuine.

Truman is bursting with life, humor and sweetness, and in the end, transcends labels with an experience that captures all of life’s imperfections and highlights. Gay proves himself a filmmaker with unparalleled grace and empathy, allowing his characters to handle their struggles with dignity, never shying away from the complications of unsaid fears while always celebrating the happiness found in the middle. It’s impossible to watch this film and not be utterly moved, as it makes us realize the transience of life and the relentless nature of time.

SG