By Richard von Busack
I’m so pro-euthanasia that it’s amazing I’m not actually dead yet, so some of the life-choosing cross-currents in the Spanish import Truman didn’t tug at me. The dying Madrid actor Julian (Ricardo Darin) is surprised by a dear old friend Tomás (Javier Cámara, an elongated and more forlorn Robert Duvall) who has flown in from Canada. Julian informs his friend that he’s about to discontinue chemo and will, before long, pull that final curtain himself. In the meantime, he must adopt away Truman, his elderly rottweiler. During the four days of hanging out, the old friends try to give Truman away to various people.
Darin’s a dashing actor with a buttery voice; pale and dying is not a great look. There’s unused room for a backstory—director Cesc Gay slows the process by generally having one bit of information per scene—and it takes a while to figure out who is whom to who.
By the time it’s clear, there’s the aspect of a pity-party. A scene where Julian is fired from the part of Valmont in a Spanish language staging of Dangerous Liaisons seems piled up with extraneous sorrow. While the theater manager’s double-talk is coldly witty, it doesn’t add up. The production is a hit, and Julian shows no weakness on stage as the French scoundrel.
Some of the moments could be taken from a dying man’s notebook, like Julian accepting forgiveness from a man whose wife he slept with, and talking with friends who avoid him. The first thing said to him by the producer (José Luis Gómez) who is cutting him loose is both grave and brave: “I have no words of comfort.” But Truman is stuck between realism and romanticism, and neither side works completely.