Julian (Ricardo Darin) was born in Argentina but has found steady work in Spain as an actor in film and stage productions. His long-time friend Tomas (Javier Camara) comes from Canada where he lives with wife and children and Julian is very pleased to see him. Tomas, however, teaches at a college, can only spend four days with him. They make the most of their time together.
In conversations in bars and cafes, they reminisce about the past and try to come to terms with Julian’s diagnosis of lung cancer (which has spread all over his body) and impending death. He has decided to stop chemotherapy and other treatments. Although Tomas might be tempted to try to change his mind, he knows better than to do so. Instead, he accompanies his friend as he goes about getting his affairs in order.
Julian is determined to make all the key decisions himself. He visits a funeral parlor to decide what should happen to his body. He talks with his cousin Paula (Dolores Fonzi) and then makes an impulsive visit to Amsterdam to see his college-age son (Oriol Pla). The most heart-affecting scenes are those in which Julian expresses his love and concern for his beloved bullmastiff named Truman. He even asks a veterinarian whether or not animals experience grief and what he can do to make his passing less traumatic for the dog. When he leaves Truman for an evening with a family that is considering adopting him, Julian reveals terrible pain thus getting a preview so deep that the moment becomes a of the other losses that will come with death.
This is an insightful, subtle, sensitive look at a difficult topic. Everything about the film — acting, directing, writing, mood setting — is just right. We realize, after seeing it, that we have had a spiritual encounter with dying, friendship, and love.
This has to be one of the warmest bromances we will ever see. This is a film about the mechanics of friendship, ageing and the inevitability of dying. It is also about human. With Tomás looking on as non-judgmentally as he can, Julian defies convention to define the terms of his own mortality. The two men are firmly in touch with their emotions but there’s no renting of cloth and barely a tear as they face the simple reality that Julián’s life is coming to a close.
The film has emotionally authentic moments that take place over a short period of time and it is gorgeous to watch. The performances by Darín and Cámara perfect as well. You never doubt the intimacy of the friendship between these men. As in life, they are as different as night and day and this probably explains their simpatico relationship.. Julián and Tomás subtly change as the film goes on. We see Julián’s bravado diminish as the gravity of his circumstances gradually sinks in, while Tomás’ initial uneasiness dissipates as he steps up to the plate. Truman’s fate rests in a grand gesture of trust and love.