The Goya awards are Spain’s annual film ceremony which celebrate the best that their national industry has to offer. In February of this year during the 30th Goya Awards one film took home nearly every major statue – Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor and Best Original Screenplay. The recipient was Truman: a warm, textured gem of a film that come to Australian audiences via this year’s Spanish Film Festival sponsored by Palace Cinemas.
Thomás (Javier Cámara) leaves his wife and children behind in the opening scene to go to the airport; his destination is Madrid in his native Spain. He’s there to see Julián (Ricardo Darín) – his long-time friend who is revealed to have been diagnosed with terminal cancer. The two spend the next four days together trying to get Julián’s affairs in order, most significantly finding a home for Julián’s beloved Staffordshire terrier Truman. Theirs is a friendship which has been cultivated over many years, and these four days are spent enjoying each other’s company in a variety of bars and cafes in the constant company of a glass of red, knowing that this will probably be the last time they will ever see one another.
Working on a script that he wrote alongside Tomás Aragay (the two also teamed up to make A Gun in Each Hand in 2012), Cesc Gay has created a low key but truly wonderful drama which is brought to the screen with little-to-no sentimentality and held together by the performances of Ricardo Darín and Javier Cámara. The two of them have a genuine charm together, playing two long-term friends with an authenticity which is convincing from the moment they meet until their final, genuinely moving, goodbye.
Male friendship is a topic which isn’t always easy to get right on screen; it’s a bond which largely rests on the subtleties of the two people involved. Men very rarely have discussions on their feelings so a friendship between a pair usually rests on the silent pauses. The sense that two people are content with each other’s company enough to sit without dialogue. It’s a task which Darín and Cámara do exceptionally well.
The two leads aren’t the only fine performances. Dolores Fonzi, as Julián’s concerned yet understanding sister, is a class in understated charm; she and Cámara share the most intimate yet subtly touching sex scene of the year. A brief interlude to Amsterdam to spend time with Julián’s son contains one of the simplest yet most beautiful meal scenes of the year. There are so many little moments that bring a smile to your face when reflected on; it’s rare to find a film which so beautifully hits a tone that is uplifting yet also quietly morbid.
“Every person dies as best he can” Julián says at one point. Whoever thinks that they understand the massive and sombre subject of death is either lying or kidding themselves but when a film is able to explore this theme in a straight forward yet wonderfully restrained way it works spectacularly. It’s the kind of film that so easily could have slipped into trite clichés – it’s best not to think about what Hollywood would have made of this story – but Cesc Gay does an amazing job of carefully avoiding the pitfalls.
This is a melancholy yet dignified and often funny story about shuffling to the end of this mortal coil, which probably won’t get a huge local audience but totally deserves one. Highly recommended.