Gael García Bernal has come a long way since he exploded onto the world stage with 2000’s Amores Perros. But between numerous US film and TV productions, and a recent cinematic love affair with Chilean auteur Pablo Larraín, he still hasn’t turned his back on the Mexican industry that gave him professional life. Following up on last year’s collaboration with Jonás Cuarón entitled Desierto, Gael’s latest Mexican production finds him teaming up with one of the country’s biggest directors for an adaptation of José Agustín’s 1982 novel “Ciudades Desiertas.”
Re-christened Me estás matando, Susana, the new feature is the third literary adaptation for director Roberto Sneider, who became a local phenomenon with 2008’s grandiose period piece Arráncame la vida (Tear This Heart Out), adapted from the novel by Ángeles Mastretta. Nevertheless, Me estás matando couldn’t be a bigger stylistic departure from that sumptuous historical epic, opting instead for a shaky, handheld camera and muted colors to tell this story of modern love and Mexican machismo.
Played as a sort of romantic comedy, Me estás matando, Susana follows a Mexican intellectual prone to bouts of rage as he tracks down his wife, Susana, a feminist author who absconds to the US for a literary fellowship without so much as a goodbye. Once they’ve reunited, their relationship dynamic is inverted, with Susana setting the rules of the game despite husband Eligio’s deep-seated macho tendencies.
The result is a deceptively light comedy with a rough-around-the-edges aesthetic that nevertheless digs into some pretty heady themes about Mexican gender dynamics. Gael seems particularly free as he improvises his way around the screenplay by Sneider and Luis Cámara, while Spanish actress Veronica Echegui shines as his better half. There are also plenty of culture-shock gags that go beyond the familiar clichés without sacrificing laughs, like the trailer’s all-too-familiar US customs nightmare, or the backhanded compliment from a well-meaning taxi driver.
Me estás matando, Susana premiered at this year’s Guadalajara Film Festival and will premiere in Mexican cinemas later in 2016.