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TRU­MAN, drama, not rated, in Spanish with sub­ti­tles, The Screen, 3 chiles

Tru­man is the story of two men who must write the last chap­ter of a long friend­ship. A mid­dle-aged the­ater actor in Madrid, Julián (Ri­cardo Darín) has de­cided to dis­con­tinue his chemo­ther­apy treat­ment and in­stead ac­cept death. Tomás ( Javier Cá­mara), who lives in Canada with his wife and chil­dren, vis­its him for four days, os­ten­si­bly to of­fer com­fort and to say good­bye. Cesc Gay di­rects this end-of-life nar­ra­tive with agility and wel­come lev­ity, though an awk­ward at­tempt to wedge in a ro­man­tic an­gle to­ward the end lessens the story’s poignancy.

Julián is sep­a­rated from his wife. He sees him­self as a ro­man­tic hero, though his flings, as we pass­ingly find out, have caused at least one other cou­ple to split up. Darín brings the right mix of vul­ner­a­bil­ity and charm to Julián’s char­ac­ter. How­ever hap­haz­ardly Julián may have lived his life, he de­cides to face death on his own terms, which means not in a hos­pi­tal. Julián tells Tomás that he has one other child (in ad­di­tion to his col­lege-go­ing son who stud­ies in Am­s­ter­dam) — his dog, Tru­man. Be­fore he dies, Julián wants to place Tru­man with a car­ing fam­ily.

From this slim thread is hung the story of the last ad­ven­ture of Julián and Tomás. Among their no­table stops is a sur­prise visit to Am­s­ter­dam to cel­e­brate the son’s birth­day. On the flight there, the two friends bicker about whether Julián should tell his son about his im­mi­nent death (Tomás wants him to). In the end, Julián can’t bring him­self to spoil his rare af­ter­noon with his son. Back in Madrid, how­ever, he learns from his ex-wife that his son al­ready knows — the rev­e­la­tion is mov­ing, with a comic edge.

Gay han­dles male bond­ing ex­ceed­ingly well, but where he fal­ters is with the char­ac­ter of Julián’s cousin, Paula (Dolores Fonzi), who, as Tomás sees it, is the point per­son for his care. How­ever, we mostly see the cousins dis­agree­ing, and even avoid­ing each other. Paula is a di­vor­cée with a quick tem­per ( Julián puts it down to her “Ital­ian blood.”). When, un­ex­pect­edly, Tomás spends his last night in Madrid with Paula, the un­con­vinc­ing scene jars the other­wise haunt­ing tone of this film. — Priyanka Ku­mar

Ca­nine com­rade: Javier Cá­mara and Ri­cardo Darín

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