Y tu mamá también (2002)

17 Sep


Smith’s Verdict: ****
Reviewed by Tanner Smith

Describing the premise doesn’t necessarily describe the film. In the case of “Y tu mamá también,” its basic premise can be described like so: two horny teenage boys embark on a road trip with an attractive, older woman and learn a thing or two about life, friendship, sex, and each other. To call this film a “teen drama” in that regard is to call “Hoop Dreams” a “basketball movie.” It’s technically true, but doesn’t give enough reason to see the movie.

“Y tu mamá también,” a Spanish film whose title translates as “And Your Mama Too,” takes place in the summertime in Mexico. Teenage best friends Tenoch (Diego Luna) and Julio (Gael Garcia Bernal), one from a rich family, one from a working-class background, are bored with their routines after their girlfriends left for vacation in Europe. They attend a wedding where they meet a stunning, lively young woman named Luisa (Maribel Verdu) and attempt to flirt with her, which leads to inviting her to come with them to a supposedly-secret beach called Heaven’s Mouth. What they didn’t expect was her accepting the invitation. So, they quickly pack up the car with supplies (including condoms, of course), get a map to the beach they didn’t even think existed, and pick her up to embark upon the adventure of a lifetime.

While on this car trip, the horny teenagers continue to attempt impressing this older, sexually progressive woman with how cool they are and how they’re in control of their own sexuality. Luisa likes to cheerfully tease Tenoch and Julio about their attitudes and methods of living, while also luring them into eroticism. She does this because her husband has been cheating on her and she feels the need to be desired. What makes Luisa the most interesting character in “Y tu mamá también” is that while doing this, she feels like teaching them something about sex as well. To them, sex is like a sport they win with their girlfriends and they take it (and them) for granted; maybe Luisa can change that and make them see sex as something more special.

Just listen to the premise—two teenage boys embark on a road trip with an attractive, older woman and learn life lessons along the way. This could’ve been made into a conventional mainstream comedy-drama, especially seeing as how this film was released in the early-2000s at a time when most teen films that came out were about grossout gags (sometimes involving a pie). But listen to the dialogue, written by director Alfonso Cuaron and his brother Carlos…or rather, read the English subtitles over the Spanish dialogue. It looks and sounds like real people talking. The way “Y tu mamá también” is filmed also makes it feel more real, with shaky camera movements and numerous long takes. That, and the film has one of the most frank depictions of sex I’ve ever seen, with characters talking about it in a realistic manner and even showing a lot in graphic detail. There’s plenty of nudity to please any male and/or female who’s tired of reading subtitles. You don’t see this very often in most films, or least of all, “teen dramas.”

Being a film with a road trip device, it’s a long journey and a worthy destination. Along the way, we as an audience see a lot of Mexico that they drive through. They go through small poor villages, pass police checkpoints, and also come across a roadblock of people stopping oncoming vehicles so they give donations to their queen, who is a girl dressed in white, representing the Virgin. The boys think nothing of it, but Luisa probably sees more to it, as she compliments and embraces the oddities they come across, especially when they finally reach the beach and come across more quirky characters. Why? That’s something I can’t answer right now without giving away something important, but let me just say watching the film again, knowing what you know from the first viewing, makes it more of a story about how you face your own mortality, and how no one should take life for granted.

Throughout the film are times when the sound cuts out and an omnipresent narrator states many background details about the characters and the places they come across on their trip. We realize while listening to it all how much of Mexico we’re seeing and what a message it’s conveying about its unfortunate peasantry left by a successful economy. It becomes even more apparent when the characters arrive at the beach and meet a fisherman named Chuy, and we learn that this “unspoiled paradise” will be purchased as a tourist attraction and Chuy will work as a janitor.

And what exactly do Tenoch and Julio learn after all this? That’s not really for me to say, but after seeing the ending of “Y tu mamá también,” it might make you want to see it again. Seeing it once doesn’t quite cut it. I would say that it’s one of those “coming-of-age” films that really has more to say than what its premise might suggest, but honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a film quite like “Y tu mamá también.”

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