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.







How Hawkwind's First Voyage Helped Spearhead Space Rock 50 Years Ago

Hawkwind's 1970 debut opened the door to rock's collective sonic possibilities, something that connected them tenuously to punk, dance, metal, and noise.


Graphic Novel 'Cuisine Chinoise' Is a Feast for the Eyes and the Mind

Lush art and dark, cryptic fables permeate Zao Dao's stunning graphic novel, Cuisine Chinoise.


Alanis Morissette's 'Such Pretty Forks in the Road' Is a Quest for Validation

Alanis Morissette's Such Pretty Forks in the Road is an exposition of dolorous truths, revelatory in its unmasking of imperfection.


Hip-Hop's Raashan Ahmad Talks About His Place in 'The Sun'

On his latest work,The Sun, rapper Raashan Ahmad brings his irrepressible charisma to this set of Afrobeat-influenced hip-hop.


Between the Buried and Me's Baby Pictures Star in 'The Silent Circus'

The Silent Circus shows Between the Buried and Me developing towards the progressive metal titans they would eventually become.


The Chad Taylor Trio Get Funky and Fiery on 'The Daily Biological'

A nimble jazz power trio of drums, tenor sax, and piano, the Chad Taylor Trio is free and fun, funky and fiery on The Daily Biological.


Vistas' 'Everything Changes in the End' Is Catchy and Fun Guitar Rock

Vistas' debut, Everything Changes in the End, features bright rock music that pulls influences from power-pop and indie rock.


In Amy Seimetz's 'She Dies Tomorrow', Death Is Neither Delusion Nor Denial

Amy Seimetz's She Dies Tomorrow makes one wonder, is it possible for cinema to authentically convey a dream, or like death, is it something beyond our control?


Maestro Gamin and Aeks' Latest EP Delivers LA Hip-Hop Cool (premiere + interview)

MaestroAeks' Sapodigo is a collection of blunted hip-hop tunes, sometimes nudging a fulsome boom-bap and other times trading on laid-back, mellow grooves.


Soul Blues' Sugaray Rayford Delivers a "Homemade Disaster" (premiere + Q&A)

What was going to be a year of touring and building Sugaray Rayford's fanbase has turned into a year of staying home and reaching out to fans from his Arizona home.


Titan to Tachyons' Experimental Heaviness on Full Display via "Earth, And Squidless" (premiere)

Featuring former members of Orbweaver and Imperial Triumphant, Titan to Tachyons break incredible new ground in the realm of heavy music.


Jerry Leger Teams with Moby Grape's Don Stevenson for "Halfway 'Til Gone" (premiere)

Reminiscent of Lee Hazlewood and the Everly Brothers, Jerry Leger's "Halfway 'Til Gone" is available on all streaming platforms on 6 August.


The 10 Best Experimental Albums of 2015

Music of all kinds are tending toward a consciously experimental direction. Maybe we’re finally getting through to them.


John Lewis, C.T. Vivian, and Their Fellow Freedom Riders Are Celebrated in 'Breach of Peace'

John Lewis and C.T. Vivian were titans of the Civil Rights struggle, but they are far from alone in fighting for change. Eric Etheridge's masterful then-and-now project, Breach of Peace, tells the stories of many of the Freedom Riders.


Unwed Sailor's Johnathon Ford Discusses Their New Album and 20 Years of Music

Johnathon Ford has overseen Unwed Sailor for more than 20 years. The veteran musician shows no sign of letting up with the latest opus, Look Alive.

Jedd Beaudoin

Jazz Trombonist Nick Finzer Creates a 'Cast of Characters'

Jazz trombonist Nick Finzer shines with his compositions on this mainstream jazz sextet release, Cast of Characters.


Datura4 Travel Blues-Rock Roads on 'West Coast Highway Cosmic'

Australian rockers Datura4 take inspiration from the never-ending coastal landscape of their home country to deliver a well-grounded album between blues, hard rock, and psychedelia.

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.