Please forgive Spanish writer/director Cesc Gay for the initial misdirection caused by calling hisexcellent, award-winning drama Truman.
The film itself centers on Tomás (Javier Cámara, HBO’s The Young Pope) flying over from Canada to surprise his former roommate Julián (Ricardo Darín, The Secret in Their Eyes) in Madrid, and while something bland like Old Friends or The Decision would more adequately describe the handful of days they spend together, Gay instead goes with the name of Julián’s trusty Dogue de Bordeaux.
Not entirely without cause, a small part of the duo’s time together does indeed involve in-depth, existential consultations with the pup’s veterinarian as well as interviewing prospective new owners, but as the hours add up, anything concerning the oversized canine becomes a welcome respite from the harsh reality that his current owner is refusing treatment for terminal cancer.
Julián understandably takes a similar approach in distracting himself and his loved ones from his pending demise, and the transference blends nicely with the more direct confrontations concerning things to come.
A melancholy yet heartwarming day trip to Amsterdam where the pals surprise Julián’s son Nico (Oriol Pla) is especially successful at uniting these knotty emotions, as are interactions with Julián’s cousin Paula (Dolores Fonzi) back in Madrid.
Gay films it all with a steady hand, matching the subject matter with an appropriately straightforward style that allows performers and viewers alike to focus on the material. That he was rewarded with Best Director and Best Film honors at the 2016 Goyas – the Spanish equivalent of the Oscars – comes as somewhat of a surprise, but Darín, Cámara and the screenplay likewise being honored carries no such shock.
Grade: B-plus. Not rated, but with nudity, adult themes and language. Now playing at Grail Moviehouse