ARCHIVE REVIEW: Y tu mamá también

Image courtesy of Time Out New York

Y tu mamá también
Directed by: Alfonso Cuarón
Written by: Alfonso Cuarón & Carlos Cuarón
Starring: Diego Luna, Gael García Bernal and Maribel Verdú

Alfonso Cuarón’s sexed-up road movie had every critic buzzing back in 2001 when it was originally released.  Not in outrage over it’s sleazy, over-sexed characters, but its expert handling of mature themes in a vibrant, entertaining way.  It’s hard to see how the producers of the Harry Potter franchise looked at this film and said “There’s our guy.”

The film begins with teenage sex.  Tenoch (Diego Luna) is saying farewell to his girlfriend as she prepares to depart for Italy with the girlfriend of the other main character, Julio (Gael García Bernal).  It’s an erotic start to a movie that has the highest sex scene to run-time ratio (more than five in 105 minutes) I’ve ever seen.

Once the girlfriends are out of the picture, the two horny best friends let loose.  From partying and getting high at a friend’s bungalow to getting smashed at a relative’s wedding, the two boys admire the notion that time you enjoy wasting is not wasted.

It is at that upper class wedding that the story sets up the premise for the road trip.  Luisa Cortés (Maribel Verdú), the wife of Tenoch’s cousin, casually asks the drunken amigos to take her to a beach they were talking about called Heaven’s Mouth.  At the time they were just trying to impress the woman, a native of Spain, with their knowledge of hidden gems in the Mexican countryside.

Days later, Luisa, attempting to flee her cheating boyfriend, contacts the boys again about the trip.  Having made up their knowledge of the spot, he doesn’t know what to say.  Thinking with his dick, he tells her they will pick her up later that afternoon.

After convincing Julio to get the car, they gather clothes and snacks, pick up Luisa, and are off on the open road.  In traditional road movie fashion, everyone in the car is different.  Tenoch is an upper class brat, Julio is a lower class one, and Luisa isn’t even from the same country let alone age group.

The sexual odyssey these three embark on is as entertaining as it is depressing.  A narrator constantly reminds us of conditions in the parts of the road they are on, often remarking how people had died there years earlier.  This is to enforce the main idea of the film, that outside influence and history cannot penetrate their car, that they are oblivious to almost all that is happening when it doesn’t involve them.

We see physical manifestations as well, like people pulled over by the military, being hauled off to jail for reasons unnamed.  If the narrator isn’t reminding you of it, you’re seeing it for yourself.

You’re also seeing a coming-of-age story of the most erotic, complex nature.  Cuarón doesn’t beat around the bush.  He shows his characters for what they are; deeply flawed, deeply troubled individuals.  This is a film where everyone thinks with their most primal, basic desires.  The very premise of the film involves the two boys making up their knowledge to try and get in bed with Luisa.

The cast is all outstanding.  Diego Luna and Gael García Bernal are great as best friends who learn the true nature of not only themselves, but of each other.  Maribel Verdú is excellent as Luisa, bringing a bruised heart and engaging magnetism to the woman at the heart of the boys’ lust.  That she wasn’t nominated for Best Supporting Actress when this film came out is a sham.

Cuarón is a gifted director.  While this talent is more apparent in his more recent film Children of Men, his gift for no-bull storytelling as well as his work with actors on a budget of almost nothing is more present in this tumultuous, exciting, and engaging film.

Grade: A-

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