(Rodrigo Bellott’s Tu Me Manques (English translation, I Miss You) is available now on DVD as well as on all VOD services. Like what you see here on Hammer to Nail? Why not give just $1.00 per month via Patreon to help keep us going?)
At the heart of Rodrigo Bellott’s Tu Me Manques (English translation, I Miss You) is a father grieving over the loss of his son, a son whose sexual preference clashed with every value held by the father. Jorge (Oscar Martinez) sets off on a fact-finding journey aimed at piecing together who his son truly was. Jorge’s son, Gabriel (Reyes Antelo) had to keep his love life and most of his identity separate from his very heteronormative father. So where does Jorge start the journey that will help him piece together his son’s life? Naturally, he contacts the person who knew his son best, his former lover Sebastian (Fernando Barbosa).
For Jorge, the wound of losing his son is still very raw. He tells Sebastian that Gabriel previously had a girlfriend. His son was into karate and was going to get military training. In short, Jorge’s implication is that Sebastian brainwashed his son into being gay. At one point, Jorge lashes out at Sebastian, “We don’t have people like that in my family.” It is clear that Jorge never knew his son. Sebastian helps guide Jorge through the life his son kept subterranean from him. He tells Jorge about how they met, the intimacies of their romance, Gabriel’s dietary habits, even the music he liked. Sebastian also introduces Jorge to the friends that orbited around him and Gabriel. Jorge starts understanding the world not as he dogmatically sees it, but as his son saw it.
The other major storyline in Tu Me Manques involves Sebastian’s attempt to direct a play in his home nation of Bolivia based on the life of Gabriel (This film is based on the original play of the same name, Tu Me Manques). Sebastian goes through the difficult work of casting gay actors and staging a play in which being gay is central to the plot – not an easy trick to pull off in a country that still has pockets of profound homophobia. As Sebastian’s sponsors pull out and support from the Bolivian Culture ministry dries up, his elegy for Gabriel may never see the stage.
There are scenes in Tu Me Manques that are a bit clumsy, where the acting is unnecessarily intense and shouty. This creates moments of unevenness in the film. On balance, however, the film succeeds in transmitting to us the profound sorrow involved in the loss of a son and a lover. Oscar Martinez’s performance, going from not knowing much about his son’s lifestyle to a deep dive into the gay community, is noteworthy. Some of the most emotionally impactful scenes in Tu Me Manques involve the staging of the play and the personal testimonies given at the casting by the actors interviewing for roles.
You come out of Tu Me Manques remembering those you lost, appreciating those still in your life. Values clash between parents and children, between friends, lovers, and often between generations. Admittedly, conflicting values are often hard to reconcile. Perhaps, the deciding factor when evaluating values is to ask which values are exclusionary and which are inclusionary. Tu Me Manques makes a very strong case for the latter.
– Ray Lobo (@RayLobo13)