Tu me manques offers an impressively written queer narrative exploring loss and finding the strength to move on.
I was provided with a free digital screener of Tu me manques for review. The opinions I have shared are my own.
Trigger Warning: This review mentions suicide.
Movies showcasing the numerous struggles in the queer community aren’t the ones I usually opt to watch. A lot of times such films feature tragic queer storylines without having anything of value to offer. It’s just misery for the sake of misery. That’s why I was a bit hesitant to view Tu me manuqes, considering it’s a film about a homophobic father trying to connect with his dead son’s boyfriend. However, writer and director Rodrigo Bellott handles everything quite masterfully. Yes, this is an emotionally taxing movie, but you will glad you watched it.
For those who don’t know, this offering has been adapted from Bellott’s play of the same name (we learn a bit more about said play before the end credits roll). Tu me manques was also Bolivia’s official selection for Best International Feature at the 92nd Academy Awards. While it didn’t get nominated, you can’t deny it’s an incredibly well-made (and thought out) film.
The movie opens in Bolivia with Jorge (Oscar Martinez) going through his son Gabriel’s luggage while in Gabriel’s room. He then makes his way to Gabriel’s laptop and reads a conversation Gabriel had with his ex-boyfriend Sebastian (Fernando Barbosa). His snooping around leads to him video calling Sebastian (who is in New York) and our first intense conversation takes place.
Sebastian doesn’t know that Gabriel committed suicide. The realization of such a loss expressing itself on Sebastian’s face while being attacked by Jorge, who keeps blaming him for Gabriel’s death, made me applaud Barbosa’s acting skills.
As the movie continues, the narrative jumps between timelines. We have Sebastian being interviewed and talking about the inspiration behind his stage play. We have Jorge coming to New York to learn more about his son’s real identity. And we go back to when Sebastian and Gabriel first met and how their relationship grew from there.
The line between what actually happened and what’s supposed to be part of Sebastian’s play does get blurry (as you constantly switch between the past and the present), but it all works in the movie’s favor to offer a very satisfying payoff. This is a story about a lot of things. It’s about finding the strength to be true to yourself. It’s about realizing that you might not really know the person you claim to love. I think Bellott’s artistic choices conveyed the intended message perfectly.
One such interesting artistic decision involves Bellott casting a bunch of different actors to play Gabriel. I know it might sound weird on paper, but trust me, it works (and makes sense in the context of the film and what Sebastian wants to do). The actors portray the character of Gabriel the same way. So, after a few minutes, you won’t be distracted when the actors switch during scenes. Barbosa being able to share the same level of engaging chemistry with each actor is quite impressive.
Talking about the emotionally heavy stuff, there’s a lot. This film is going to feel relatable to many across the board. I do think the fear of being rejected by your own family is a universal truth for a majority of the queer community out there. Add certain religious beliefs on top of that and you start to get a picture of why so many in the queer community struggle with suicidal thoughts.
Tu me manques addresses a lot of issues as Jorge finally learns about the part of his son he’s been refusing to to acknowledge. The script does touch on how certain religious interpretations are used to justify homophobia. A number of “sins” are deemed acceptable by society, yet the existence of the queer community is a “sin” bigots put in a lot of effort to extinguish.
The film does make sure to not get too preachy and that’s why the conversations between the characters feel natural, complete with comedic moments to lighten the mood where necessary.
From visiting a queer bar with Drag Queens as performers and wanting to be “masculine” to having a conversation about heteronormativity and how many in the queer community don’t feel they’re worthy of being loved, there’s a lot to appreciate about this film.
I particularly liked the scene where Sebastian tells Jorge about how his father, while accepting of his son’s sexuality, is friendlier to his boyfriends if they were younger and shorter than Sebastian. This is because Sebastian’s father thinks his son is the “man” in the relationship if he’s going out with a shorter man. And it’s not just Sebastian’s father, looking down at “femininity” in the gay community is a real thing that many have to deal with.
Opting for a realistic approach is another thing I liked about this film. Sometimes, no matter how much you try, you won’t be able to get through to bigots (even if they are your family). At that point, you need to think about your wellbeing and appreciate the ones who accept you for who you are.
Sebastian has layers to him as a character. He’s understandably angry and frustrated. Jorge barging into his life wanting to learn more about Gabriel (after it’s been too late) elicits the correct response from Sebastian. Seeing him creating a play as an emotional and creative outlet to heal makes a lot of sense.
Also, shoutout to Sebastian’s friend TJ (Tommy Heleringer) who I couldn’t get enough of. Seeing him share that he’s average-sized took me out. We love an honest queen!
With strong performances and a well-paced and well-written script, I would recommend everyone to watch Tu me manques. It will deliver a barrage of emotional gut punches, but it’s worth it.
The film got a select virtual theatrical release on April 22, 2021. It will be made available on DVD and Digital come May 4, 2021, from Dark Star Pictures.
The Trevor Project (http://www.thetrevorproject.org/) is a nationwide organization that provides a 24-hour phone hotline, as well as 24-hour webchat and text options for queer youth.
The TrevorLifeline can be reached at 1-866-488-7386.
Farid has a Double Masters in Psychology and Biotechnology as well as an M.Phil in Molecular Genetics. He is the author of numerous books including Missing in Somerville, and The Game Master of Somerville. He gives us insight into comics, books, TV shows, anime/manga, video games, and movies.
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