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Y Tu Mamá También (2002) – Movie Review

Y Tu Mama Tambien movie poster

Written by: Alfonso Cuarón & Carlos Cuarón
Directed by: Alfonso Cuarón
Starring: Maribel Verdú, Gael García Bernal, Diego Luna

My Advice: Get off your gringo ass and see this movie! Vamanos!

Despite what you’ve heard, Y Tu Mamá También isn’t really about sex. Oh, there’s a lot of sex to be sure. The opening scene has two naked teenagers making the Beast with Two Backs, to use Widge’s turn of phrase. But this movie is about truth and how well or poorly we handle it. How this theme is illustrated throughout the movie adds surprising depth and maturity to what is on the surface looks like a teenage sex comedy a la American Pie.

Tenoch (Luna) and Julio (Bernal) are two friends living in the lively, chaotic messy megalopolis that is Mexico City. They come from different backgrounds (Tenoch is upper class, Julio is lower middle class), but they are united in their pursuit of pleasuring themselves, be it through fart jokes, marijuana, or masturbation. Their girlfriends have left for Italy and the duo is ready to party. At a family wedding, they meet Luisa (Verdú), the sexy older wife of Tenoch’s cousin. Trying to impress Luisa, they invite her to go with them to Heaven’s Mouth, a great beach that they invent to impress her. At the wedding, she takes their immature flirting with good grace, but after several upsetting pieces of news, she decides to take the boys’ offer. As they travel through the Mexican countryside, we get a view of Mexico behind the sheen of NAFTA and the trio will expose themselves in ways they weren’t anticipating.

[ad#longpost]Most movies that deal with the social and financial inequalities between the rich and the poor beat you over the head with moral preaching. Instead, this film simply shows the shantytowns, the beggars, and all the people trying to keep their heads above water. The director has this as a backdrop, allowing it to seep in and have the audience perceive, almost subliminally, the real Mexico. But to make sure that we don’t miss these images, there is an off-screen narrator that gives monologues on the characters’ thoughts and histories, background on the various places they pass on their journey, and actions that happen off-screen. An example is when the group pass a curve in the highway, the narrator tells how two years ago, an automobile accident killed several people. These speeches give the film more depth and color simply and without employing complicated imagery or symbolism.

The three main actors, Verdú, Bernal, and Luna give effortless performances. They avoid making caricatures out of their characters, an easy mistake most actors would fall into. The two boys, despite the sex and drugs, are innocents about the world they live in. They go along enjoying life, working hard to ignore the looming responsibilities of adulthood. They show how ill prepared they are when they confront truths about their own lives and the people around them. When Julio tells Tenoch he slept with his girlfriend, Tenoch makes Julio go over every detail, causing the maximum pain for both. But it is Verdú who really shines. She brings sensuality and a down to earth attitude to her character. She knows the effect she has on these boys and enjoys their attentions, knowing she has the power in their relationship, being the object of their desire. She also enjoys the freedom of the road and the open countryside, free from an unfaithful husband and other concerns. She makes this a trip of self-discovery and takes Julio and Tenoch along in the hope that they also realize some realities about themselves. This journey of truth is funny, painful, and honest without being belligerent about it. The film gives us this journey without the ponderousness or stupidity we get from mainstream American teen movies. If it’s in your area, go watch it and enjoy.

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