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Dying with dignity in Madrid

  • 19 August 2016



Truman (MA). Director: Cesc Gay. Starring: Ricardo Darín, Javier Cámara, Dolores Fonzi. 109 minutes

We all have those friends; the ones where it seems like no matter how much time has passed between meetings, we are able to pick up exactly where we left off. From the moment that Julián (Darín) opens the door of his Madrid apartment to Tomás (Cámara), who has travelled from Canada where he now lives with his wife and children, we know we are witnessing such a friendship.

The almost silent greeting that the two men share — mouths turning irrevocably to smiles, eyes moistening with nostalgia and ever present fondness, the surprise visitor Tomás nodding almost imperceptibly — Yes, I am really here — exemplifies the understated drama, the warmness and sweetness that is characteristic of this Spanish drama.

Julián, we soon learn, is dying. Tomás, his lifelong friend, has been summoned to Barcelona by Julián's cousin Paula (Fonzi), presumably to talk some sense into Julián, who has decided to stop his treatment for terminal cancer. Tomás is undecided as to whether this trip is about blessing his friend's decision and saying goodbye, or persuading him to try to squeeze a few more years out of his life.

For four brief days he accompanies Julián to a number of appointments and meetings as the latter tries to set his affairs in order; he informs his doctor of his decision, interviews a funeral practitioner about available options, and, most importantly, seeks to make arrangements for his other best friend, his burly bull mastiff Truman.

The history of these two men is not explored in detail, but it is sensed vividly in the easy intimacy and reflexive humour that they share — testament to the quality of the writing and of the performances of the two leads. This is true too of Tomás and Paula, whose affection for each other is felt (but not shown, at least at first) to embody rather more than friendship.

They are the ones who will survive to feel the pain of Julián's passing, and they disagree as to how to persuade him to change his mind. Paula is defiant, even angry; Tomás' accompaniment is instead one of quiet grace, his objections gentler in tone but not intent.


"The film is not precisely pro euthanasia, nothing as heavy handed as that. We are as sympathetic to Paula raging against her cousin's resignation, as we are to Tomás growing