Marketed as both a quirky screwball comedy and a romantic tale of a man traveling from Mexico to America to win back his wife, Roberto Sneider’s You’re Killing Me Susana is neither. Instead, it’s a fairly honest assessment of a marriage disintegrating at high speeds and the way love (or the idea of love) can cloud judgment.
In a way, I respect what Sneider is attempting here since he’s not shying away from the irresponsibility, immaturity and human desires of his cast of characters. Unfortunately, he can’t pull all of this together into a cohesive whole. The film is rarely likable and lacks any real charm, putting the viewer in the uncomfortable position of being chained between a constantly bickering couple who can’t (or perhaps refuse to) communicate properly and are obviously a bad fit for one another. The film just isn’t complex enough to make these unpleasant characters jive together, nor is it profound enough to get at any real truth.
Gael Garcia Bernal plays Eligio, a shiftless actor living in Mexico who dreams of being a respected actor but instead takes bit parts in commercials and telenovelas to pay the bills. He’s married to Susana (Veronica Echegui, Cold Light of Day), an aspiring writer who’s obviously unhappy with Eligio, who fools around on her and comes home drunk at all hours of the night. That is, until Eligio comes home one night to find Susana gone and most of her belongings missing with her. After some time and investigating, Eligio discovers that Susana has left for a writing workshop in Iowa, and, heartbroken, he decides to go find her.
This is where the meat of the film is, as Eligio and Susana attempt to reconcile, with Susana originally seeing Eligio’s journey to the States as romantic. But he’s too flawed a person — and Susana is a bit too accomodating — for this to work, as things slowly begin to snowball into oblivion. It’s not just that he’s imperfect; it’s also that Eligio is childish, prone to jealousy and lacking in self-awareness (or at the very least, ignoring his self-awareness). In short, he’s a pigheaded dope (Susana calls him an “imbecile” at one point, which seems apt) who constantly promises to change but never does.
This is a fine, even relatable and human, place to start an examination of a complex relationship. But the film is frustrating in this regard since there’s no one here to really root for. Bernal and Echegui are both excellent and do what they can with their roles, but their characters are just too unhealthy together to be likable. There’s no real emotional center, while the pat ending isn’t really earned and doesn’t seem genuine. On top of that, the film itself is stretched a bit too thin, dwelling a bit too much on its own inherent unpleasantness. This doesn’t totally ruin the movie. It just makes the whole thing a bit of a grating slog with flashes of insight. Not Rated. Now Playing at Grail Moviehouse.