Mark Reviews Movies


3 ½ Stars (out of 4)

Director: Alfonso Cuarón

Cast: Maribel Verdú, Gael García Bernal, Diego Luna

MPAA Rating: NR (contains strong sexual content involving teens, drug use and language)

Running Time: 1:45

Release Date: 3/15/02

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Review by Mark Dujsik

Y Tu Mamá También (“And Your Mom, Too”) surprises in the way that it starts off as a simplistic look at teenagers in an offbeat way and grows into a thoughtful character study as the situations and script become more and more formulaic. The beginning of the film is much like a typical teenage sex comedy—albeit one with a lot more graphic detail than anything Hollywood has put out—as two teenage boys spend a bored summer away from their girlfriends and look for whatever action may come their way, whether it be sex, drugs, alcohol, or swimming in the country club pool when no one’s around. Then it seems to become a sexual coming-of-age tale for the boys, who take an older woman on a road trip. It’s somewhere on the trip that the film opens up, and suddenly, it’s about so much more—things we never expected to show up when considering how the film starts off. Little character and situational details that have been presented before explode into conflicts and help establish some rather weighty developments that follow. By the end of the film, we essentially have the whole picture of these people and the society in which they live.

Julio Zapata (Gael García Bernal) and Tenoch Iturbide (Diego Luna) are the two kids. Julio comes from a lower-middle class family, while Tenoch comes from a well-off political family. Unlikely friends, they seem connected solely by their interest in sex, drugs, and booze. So their girlfriends have left for Italy for the summer, and the boys’ plans to party the whole time are ruined early on. At a wedding, they meet Luisa Cortés (Maribel Verdú), wife of one of Tenoch’s cousins. Instinctively drawn to the older woman, the boys absentmindedly invite Luisa to join them on a trip to Heaven’s Mouth, a utopian beach that, to their knowledge, does not exist. Their boring summer continues, and nothing eventful beyond discovering a new activity at the pool happens. In the meantime, Luisa continues her life of being her husband’s wife, sitting at home alone while he’s away on lectures. One night, he calls her and tells her that he’s slept with another woman. The revelation is enough for her to call up Tenoch and accept the offer, completely to the boys’ surprise.

The rest of the film takes on the guise of a road trip picture, as the contrasting trio encounters a series of small adventures and enlightenments. Within a second after the film starts, it has already established that sex will be a major focus of the story. It contains a few graphic sex scenes, but they aren’t first and foremost about sex. The scenes are erotic but because they aren’t glamorized. The encounters are raw, clumsy, and, yes, even a little juvenile. The film is more about the results and consequences sex brings to a relationship and personality. The boys’ libidos guide them for the most part, but the film presents the darker, more truthful side of such pursuits: insecurity, mistrust, guilt, regret. In the opening scenes with their girlfriends, we get the sense that the film will study the psychology of sex instead of exploiting the act itself. Julio worries about his girlfriend’s trip to Italy, making her promise many times over that she will remain faithful. Immediately after the girls leave, though, Julio and Tenoch are looking for new partners.

That trait is the primary character development the film delves into until Julio, Tenoch, and Luisa head off on their trip. The inclusion of Luisa to the formula throws the boys’ equilibrium off-balance. Luisa is blunt with them. She understands their motives for asking her on the trip and even finds herself agreeing to go along with their fantasies, although it’s usually in a state of mental anguish. Luisa could have easily been the typical seductress that teaches the boys about the facts of life, giving them an experience solely comprised of fun, but instead, she’s a hurt, wounded woman with a lot of baggage to deal with—some of which is only hinted at but not revealed until the very end. More importantly, she sees through Julio and Tenoch’s façade of camaraderie. She’s what finally sets their relationship in a tailspin and, in turn, allows for us to see what they’re really made of. The boys’ relationship is heavily flawed from the start because of their class difference, and from there, it just worsens.

The result is that these people grow on us tremendously. It’s all in the little details. For instance, Tenoch’s maid walks all the way from the kitchen (a rather long walk in their house) just to answer the phone for him. Later, he ironically calls Julio lazy for sleeping late. The film also employs a third-person narration to flesh out the details we don’t get within the action and dialogue—or the things that the characters cover up through action and dialogue. At first, the gimmick is annoying, but it turns out to be indispensable as much of what’s important about the characters and their lives is never spoken. The details extend beyond the characters and into the backdrop as director Alfonso Cuarón takes time to establish the economic and social problems of Mexico . Just like the sex, Mexico itself is deglamorized, and the characters drive through scenery that’s alternately beautiful and depressing—much like Mexico actually is. At points, the characters’ problems seem profoundly trivial compared to everything going on in the country around them, and I think that’s the point.

For a film to successfully explore characters the way Y Tu Mamá También does is impressive, but to explore characters, sexuality, and society with equal success is quite an accomplishment. One could classify the film as a road or a coming-of-age movie, but that’s unfairly pigeonholing it. Y Tu Mamá También transcends such placement with its details and observations. It’s a sexy, funny, sad, uplifting, and, most importantly, human film.

Copyright © 2002 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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