Synopsis: The smash road comedy from the Oscar-winning director Alfonso Cuarón is that rare movie to combine raunchy subject matter and emotional warmth. Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna shot to international stardom as a pair of horny Mexico City teenagers from different classes who, after their girlfriends jet off to Italy for the summer, are bewitched by a gorgeous older Spanish woman (Maribel Verdu) they meet at a wedding. When she agrees to accompany them on a trip to a faraway beach, the three form an increasingly intense and sensual alliance that ultimately strips them both physically and emotionally bare. Shot with elegance and dexterity by the great Emmanuel Lubezki, Y Tu Mama Tambien is a funny and moving look at human desire.
eyelights: the storytelling. its characterization. the performances. its sexy bits. its camera work.
eyesores: García Bernal’s goofiness. Verdú’s distracting implants.
“Life is like the surf, so give yourself away like the sea.”
There are movies that, no matter how often you watch them, inevitably get under your skin, transport you to another time and place, make you feel in ways you don’t. You get lost in the story, the setting, the characters, the emotions.
For me, ‘Y tu mamá también’ is one of those.
When I sat down to watch it, I had to force myself; I’d seen this film many times before and it felt too familiar to pique my interest. In fact, I had been postponing the viewing for weeks, always turning to other films instead.
But the moment that the 2001 Alfonso Cuarón picture began playing, I was immediately engaged. ‘Y tu mamá también’ is one of those movies that feels so realistic and so rich with life that you can’t help but get immersed in it.
A sexy dramedy, it takes us on a road trip with Tenoch, Julio and Luisa as they seek to find Boca del Cielo, a beach that the two young men invented as they flirted with the married woman. Hoping to get lucky, they offer to take her.
On their journey, however, Tenoch and Julio’s friendship is put to the test as a rivalry grows between them, and as Luisa forces them to confront their immaturity and hypocrisies. It will be a transformative experience for all three.
Road movies and coming-of-age stories abound, but what makes this one so poignant is the way that it’s told, with Cuarón immersing us in it, employing handheld cameras, narration and no score to give the illusion of watching a documentary.
One feels like we’re traveling the back roads of Mexico in the station wagon with our trio, baking in the sun and partaking in the dialogues with them. The fact that real life intrudes on them regularly certainly help to contribute to this.
For instance, it isn’t out of the ordinary for them to pass police road blocks or to see random villagers get oppressed by armed units. Tenoch, Julio and Luisa pay no attention to this, however, as though this were commonplace there.
There’s a socio-political component to ‘Y tu mamá también’ that’s unmistakable, but that sadly escaped me. On top of the soldiers in the background, Cuarón named his characters after some of Mexico’s most important historical figures.
He also made Tenoch’s father an important figure in the then-71-year-old Institutional Revolutionary Party government. In fact, Tenoch and Julio meet Luisa at a wedding reception that finds the Mexican President in attendance.
What Cuarón was trying to say is unclear to me, but it at least establishes a reality that is absent in most road movies. Escapist though it may be, ‘Y tu mamá también’ takes place in a real world, one with true choices and consequences.
Thankfully, the picture isn’t all intensity without any levity: though all three characters have to face aspects of their lives that they’d much rather avoid, they also find the time to lose themselves in the moment and in each other.
Along the way, they share comical and sexual stories from their lives, do plenty of drinking and smoking, and even have sex – separately and together. The picture was pretty bold for its time, showing us sex acts Hollywood usually wouldn’t.
In fact, it’s caused some controversy, preventing the picture’s release for a short while. It was eventually released in a limited run in North America, while it broke box office records in Mexico and garnered many award nominations.
Memorably sexy as it is, what I take out of ‘Y tu mamá también’ is its message about making the most out of one’s life. Sometimes it means freeing yourself from societal constraints. Sometimes it can mean taking responsibility.
Ultimately, it means being honest with yourself first and foremost, but it also means being honest with others. The only way through this journey that is life is to be free to be one’s self, to drop the pretenses and focus on one’s vision.
‘Y tu mamá también’ reminds us of this. Life may seem like forever, but it’s entirely too short to squander on the mundane, on empty connections and meaningless experiences. And it’s possible to lose one’s self without actually being lost.
The right current for our own personal journey is in each of us.
We just need to find it and follow it.
Date of viewing: February 25, 2017