London Film Festival 2015: 'Truman'

Cesc Gay’s agreeable buddy movie is like a friend you’re happy to have spent time with -- despite occasional irritations.


Director: Cesc Gay
Cast: Javier Cámara, Ricardo Darín, Dolores Fonzi

Truman, the latest film from the Catalan director Cesc Gay, follows Tomás (Javier Cámara), a 40-something Spaniard living in Canada as he returns to Madrid to spend some time with his best friend Julián (Ricardo Darín), a divorced Argentinian actor who’s dying of lung cancer. Despite quite a number of years of separation, the two men quickly re-establish their old rapport, and the movie is fairly low-key and relaxed in presenting the pair’s activities and interactions over a period of a few days.

Though still working (he’s currently acting on stage in a Molière play), Julián is now making some tentative steps towards settling his affairs in a dignified manner in preparation for his death. The two men take a trip to Amsterdam to visit Julián's son Nico (Oriol Pla), who believes his father to be over his illness, and also begin to make some funeral plans. One especially pressing task is finding a new home for the title character: a large mutt who’s been Julián’s constant companion.

Consistently amusing, sometimes affecting, and just a little bit smarmy, Gay’s bright buddy movie is likeable overall. Gay can’t be said to be at his subtlest in this film – the opening scene is set in Canada so, inevitably, there’s snow on the ground – and he’s not above shamelessness either, including numerous cuts to the dog for cutesy reaction shots.

Still, Truman sustains a genial, friendly tone, and the deft underplaying of its performers saves some of the weaker moments. Cámara and Darín (who shared the “Concha de Plata” Best Actor prize at this year’s San Sebastian Film Festival) perform beautifully, the former ever-watchful as he assesses his friend’s attitudes and moods, the latter chatty and lively yet clearly suggesting that Julián is a man winding down.

By far the oddest aspect of the movie (though unmentioned in any of the English-language reviews I’ve seen up to now) is its attitude towards the homoerotic underpinnings of the protagonists’ relationship. Anxious to reaffirm the men’s heterosexuality at every stage, Truman also includes some pretty obvious indications that there’s something more going on. “I can see you’ve got an erection,” jokes Tomás, when the gleeful Julián greets him on arrival, and there’s much kissing and hugging throughout, and even a spot of bedroom hand-holding at one point.

The film also introduces a female relative of Julián's – a cousin named Paula (Dolores Fonzi) -- for Tomás to fall for and finally sleep with, in an inappropriately explicit late sex scene that seems to activate the character’s grieving process but that looks like nothing so much as the culmination of his barely-suppressed desire for Julián.

It’s hard to say whether Gay (whose early film Nico and Dani (Krámpack) [2000] dealt with gay desire in the context of a teenage male friendship) should have made these elements more or less overt, but this aspect of the film does feel weirdly inconclusive, suggested in terms more explicit than the average screen bromance yet ultimately evaded in a way that’s oddly coy.

Truman is an uneven movie, then, with truth and falsity running side by side. Still, it remains quite agreeable, like a friend who can get on your nerves a bit, but whom you’re happy to have spent time with in the end.






'World War 3 Illustrated #51: The World We Are Fighting For'

World War 3 Illustrated #51 displays an eclectic range of artists united in their call to save democracy from rising fascism.


Tiphanie Doucet's "You and I" Is an Exercise in Pastoral Poignancy (premiere)

French singer-songwriter Tiphanie Doucet gives a glimpse of her upcoming EP, Painted Blue, via the sublimely sentimental ode, "You and I".


PM Picks Playlist 3: WEIRDO, Psychobuildings, Lili Pistorius

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of WEIRDO, Brooklyn chillwavers Psychobuildings, the clever alt-pop of Lili Pistorius, visceral post-punk from Sapphire Blues, Team Solo's ska-pop confection, and dubby beats from Ink Project.

By the Book

The Story of Life in 10 1/2 Species (excerpt)

If an alien visitor were to collect ten souvenir life forms to represent life on earth, which would they be? This excerpt of Marianne Taylor's The Story of Life in 10 and a Half Species explores in text and photos the tiny but powerful earthling, the virus.

Marianne Taylor

Exploitation Shenanigans 'Test Tube Babies' and 'Guilty Parents' Contend with the Aftermath

As with so many of these movies about daughters who go astray, Test Tube Babies blames the uptight mothers who never told them about S-E-X. Meanwhile, Guilty Parents exploits poor impulse control and chorus girls showing their underwear.


Deftones Pull a Late-Career Rabbit Out of a Hat with 'Ohms'

Twenty years removed from Deftones' debut album, the iconic alt-metal outfit gel more than ever and discover their poise on Ohms.


Arcade Fire's Will Butler Personalizes History on 'Generations'

Arcade Fire's Will Butler creates bouncy, infectious rhythms and covers them with socially responsible, cerebral lyrics about American life past and present on Generations.


Thelonious Monk's Recently Unearthed 'Palo Alto' Is a Stellar Posthumous Live Set

With a backstory as exhilarating as the music itself, a Thelonious Monk concert recorded at a California high school in 1968 is a rare treat for jazz fans.


Jonnine's 'Blue Hills' Is an Intimate Collection of Half-Awake Pop Songs

What sets experimental pop's Jonnine apart on Blue Hills is her attention to detail, her poetic lyricism, and the indelibly personal touch her sound bears.


Renegade Connection's Gary Asquith Indulges in Creative Tension

From Renegade Soundwave to Renegade Connection, electronic legend Gary Asquith talks about how he continues to produce infectiously innovative music.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.


Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.


PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.


'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.


Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.


Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.


Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.