Published on June 26, 2016
Truman Burbank is the unsuspecting star of The Truman Show, a reality television program in which his entire life, since the moment of his birth, is filmed by thousands of hidden cameras continuously, and is broadcast live around the world. The show’s creator and executive producer Christof is able to capture Truman’s real emotion and human behavior when put in certain situations, inspired to develop a show around this. Truman’s coastal Florida hometown of Seahaven is a giant set built under a giant arcological dome in Hollywood. Truman’s family and friends are all actors, allowing Christof to control Truman’s life completely.
During the 30th year of the show, Truman notices certain aspects of his near-perfect world that seem out of place. A theatrical light (labeled Sirius) falls from the dome’s artificial roof, nearly hitting him but is quickly passed off as an aircraft in trouble “shedding parts”. After this, Truman’s car radio picks up a conversation between the show’s crew tracking his movements. Truman also becomes aware of more subtle abnormalities within his regular day-to-day life, such as the way in which the same people appear in the same places at certain times each day and his wife Meryl’s tendency to blatantly advertise the various products she buys.
To prevent Truman from discovering his false reality, Christof has delicately invented ways of dissuasion against exploration, the most drastic of which was “killing” his father in a storm while on a fishing trip to instill in him aquaphobia, and broadcasts fake channels with news reports and commercials about the dangers of traveling, and television shows about how good it is to stay at home. The actor that played Truman’s deceased father sneaks back onto the set as a homeless man, but is whisked away as soon as Truman notices him. Despite Christof’s control, Truman has managed to behave in unexpected ways, in particular by falling in love with an extra, Sylvia, known to Truman as Lauren, instead of Meryl, the character intended to be his wife. Though Sylvia is quickly removed from the set and Truman marries Meryl, he continues to secretly pine for ‘Lauren’. Sylvia becomes part of a “Free Truman” campaign that fights to free him from the show and to reveal his identity.
Despite the best efforts of his family and his best friend Marlon to reassure him, all these events cause Truman to start wondering about his life, realizing how the world seems to revolve and shape around him, with complete strangers to him knowing his name. Truman attempts to leave Seahaven but is blocked by fabricated emergency situations, further aggravating him. Meryl grows increasingly stressed by the pressure of perpetuating the deception, and their marriage unravels in the face of Truman’s increasing skepticism and attendant hostility towards her. This causes her to snap and break character, further confusing Truman. As a result, Meryl is pulled off the show, and Christof officially brings back Truman’s father, hoping his presence will keep Truman from trying to leave. However, he only provides a temporary respite: Truman soon becomes isolated and begins staying alone in his basement.
One night, Truman fools the cameras and escapes the basement undetected via a secret tunnel, forcing Christof to temporarily suspend broadcasting of the show for the first time in its history. This causes a surge in viewership, with many viewers, including Sylvia, cheering on Truman’s escape attempt, despite criticizing Christof earlier. Christof orders every actor and crew member to search the town formally, even breaking the town’s daylight cycle to help in the search. They find that through a camera, Truman has overcome aquaphobia and has sailed away from the town in a small boat. After restoring the transmission, Christof orders the show’s crew to create a large storm to try to capsize the boat, prompting a heated debate with his assistants and his technicians over the morality and legality of murdering a human being in front of a live audience, to which Truman berates the crew. He nearly drowns, but his determination eventually leads Christof to terminate the storm.
As Truman recovers, the boat reaches the edge of the dome, piercing through the dome’s screen sky. Angered and frustrated, Truman then continuously punches the wall and breaks down crying. Truman then discovers a flight of stairs nearby, leading to a door marked “EXIT”. As he contemplates leaving his world, Christof finally turns to his last resort by speaking directly to Truman via a microphone, trying to persuade him to stay. Truman, after a moment’s thought, delivers his catchphrase (“In case I don’t see you… good afternoon, good evening, and good night”), bows to his audience and steps through the door and exits the set.
The viewers excitedly celebrate Truman’s escape, and Sylvia quickly leaves her L.A. apartment and departs so she can meet up with him. A network executive orders the crew to cease transmission of the show, leaving Christof dismayed with the realization that his show is truly over. Two parking attendants who have been watching the show compliment the great ending to the “story” before promptly switching channels to see what else is on.