Gay drama Tu Me Manques deals with heavy topics like suicide, rejection, coming out of the closet, death, and love while managing to juggle some light comedy. Rodrigo Bellott, who also wrote the play, adapts and directs this symbolic meditation on coming to terms with acceptance after death. Visually, it evokes the feeling of a play more often than not, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. After his son Gabriel (played by several different actors, including Jose Duran and Quim del Rio) commits suicide, Jorge (Oscar Martinez) travels to New York to hash things out with Gabriel’s boyfriend, Sebastian (Fernando Barbosa). Jorge goes so far as to tell Sebastian that “you don’t have the right to be part of his death.” Sebastian works through his grief by channeling it into a new play honoring Gabriel, while Jorge clashes with his faith and how to accept Gabriel’s sexuality.
The meaning and messages are passionate and concise, and through the strange unraveling structure of the narrative, it gets us closer to all of the lead characters. Some aspects of this reminded me of Broadway’s excellent gone-too-soon production of The Inheritance, though that one told more of a multi-generational story, whereas Manques is much more modern. Dialogue is poetic and sometimes bizarre. I loved hearing Sebastian open up to Jorge, just a tiny bit more each time. The beauty is in the smallest details, like when he tells Jorge: “he’d wake me up with a kiss or a Shakira song.” Gabriel himself, who the audience is aware has passed on within the first 5 minutes, is given generous brush-strokes of definition. The film never makes the mistake of painting him as saintly or perfect. He was going through his own struggles of being closeted and insecure about his own sexuality.
Tu Me Manques is one big performance art piece. Via Sebastian’s play, symbolism sprouts forth into a beautiful culmination of events. Even the film’s title is significant, with one character explaining it to mean “I miss me in you,” or an essential part of you is now absent. Gabriel’s relationships with both his father and his boyfriend provide hefty emotional weight and soul-crushing moments of deep sadness. The biggest takeaways are to love stronger and fiercer, to be more accepting, and to always listen when your friends and children need you the most. An end quote from the American Association of Suicidology hammers it all home, reminding the audience about the high suicide rates among LGBTQ+ youth.
Tu Me Manques is in select theaters April 22nd, and on DVD/digital May 4th from Dark Star Pictures.