Bolivia’s Oscar submission is a powerfully acted tale of a father’s love, but an on-the-nose script pulls it back from excellence.
Writer-director Rodrigo Bellott’s new film Tu Me Manques is an exploration of Latin American ideas about homosexuality. Bellott pens a script that doesn’t allow you to read between the lines, because every feeling, every message is right in front of you.
In concept, this is a fascinating story. A Bolivian father (Oscar Martínez) travels to New York City to meet his son Gabriel’s ex-boyfriend Sebastian (Fernando Barbosa) following Gabriel’s suicide. Martínez is absolutely incredible and that must be said. He carries the full weight of the story on his shoulders, and the emotions on his face in every scene are subtle and moving. He draws every ounce of emotion out of the script and lays it on the screen for the audience to plainly see. He’s wonderful.
Instead of seeing Gabriel in flashbacks, we see three separate Gabriels, played by actors in a play that Sebastian is directing to deal with his pain. The play itself looks quite good, and the idea of using three separate actors is too smart. Sebastian doesn’t want to lose or replace the memory of Gabriel and watching the three men be interchanged during party scenes, sex scenes, and dialogue-heavy moments is fascinating. Bellott deserves to be commended for that risky move, for it certainly paid off.
It’s clear that Bellott is bringing to light the difficulties within Bolivian (and South American) culture for gay men. He’s highlighting an issue that many Americans don’t even know about, and it’s an important issue at that. The religious elements of the film are fascinating, and the way that the characters discuss God felt new and unique.
For all of the positive parts of the film listed above, the script continues to falter throughout the 105-minute runtime. Bellott’s messaging lacks subtlety and his characters’ emotions (besides that of the father) are either completely subdued or lashing out in a scream. We are given every single theme without any effort and the dialogue feels like a movie script, not like conversations that people are having. Maybe that was just his decision, but it didn’t work for a cinematic experience.
Tu Me Manques is a film that people should see because the story it’s telling is poignant, but they’ll have to sit through a heavy-handed plot in order to get there. If you can, go see it, but just know, you’ve been warned.
Based in Brooklyn, NY, Michael is a regular critic for Ready Steady Cut and also writes for Cinema Sentries, The Film Experience and Film Inquiry.