Review: Y tu mamá también (dir Alfonso Cuaron, 2001)

[Cross-posted from Kamera, and written in 2001]

Not overly sophisticated (thank God), indeed somewhat crude at points (excellent), and rather like a mixture between The Sure ThingBeavis and Butthead and Shadowlands (just kidding), Y tu mamá también is extremely good-natured, thoughtful and enjoyable – far more so than the witless trailer (which makes it out to be a teen gross-out comedy) suggests.

It follows two seventeen-year-old Mexico City friends – Tenoch (Diego Luna), a corrupt politician’s son, and middle-class Julio (Gael Garcia Bernal, of Amores Perros) – and Luisa (Maribel Verdu), the beautiful young Spanish woman they meet at a party. To impress her they invite her on a road trip they are planning to go on, to what they say is the best beach around, La Boca del Cielo, or Heaven’s Mouth – which they’ve invented. She declines, but when her husband (Tenoch’s writer cousin) calls her in tears to tell her of an infidelity, changes her mind, and calls the boys – who are forced to rustle up a car, and a plan. The ensuing road trip tests their friendship and their sexuality.

It’s crisply shot, consistently funny, and still manages to feel like it’s got more going on than in an average teen road movie. As the Charolastras or Space Cowboys, as they dub themselves, Tenoch, Julio and their friends get stoned, masturbate furiously and jam around to a teenage coda. Luisa’s own crisis, and its resolution, finds its release in helping the two teens begin their graduation out of that teenworld to adulthood, some apparently complicated sex (not at all, as everyone who sees the film is at pains to stress, gratuitous), and encounters with rural folk, into whose lives we are given a brief insight by the omniscient narrator.

The film wears its politics lightly, but manages to give a clear impression of a Mexico that is changing, even growing up. From the heavily-guarded appearance of the President at the party at the start of the film, to the horde of pigs trampling the campsite, and the invasion of tourist hotels at the end, Alfonso Cuaron handles the two levels of the film skillfully and enjoyably, never overburdening the spectator with too much weight or too much fluff. Along with the excellent performances, from Garcia Bernal in particular, this makes for a lighter, but equally praiseworthy, Mexican follow-up to Amores Perros. In short, just go and see the bloody thing.

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