Y Tu Mamá También (And Your Mother Too)
Alfonso Cuarón, Mexico, 2001
Imagine Y Tu Mamá También director Alfonso Cuarón pitching his
film to Hollywood executives: The girlfriends of two horny teenagers have
gone traveling to Europe for the summer, leaving the pair to their own
lascivious devices. Soon after, the boys meet an incredibly sexy (not to
mention unhappily married) older woman at a wedding reception, inviting her
on a road trip to a magical beach paradise. Amazingly, the woman agrees to
tag along, and wild sex ensues.
Hollywood, which has mastered the ultra-dumb teen sex-comedy formula, would
have no trouble grafting a tried-and-true template to the director's vision.
Fortunately, Cuarón doesn't go the safe Hollywood route, choosing instead to
make Y Tu Mamá in a direct, raw and almost documentary style that's
not only a bluntly honest look at oversexed adolescents, but an incisive
examination of the power women wield over men, be they 14 or 40.
The two teenaged friends in Y Tu Mamá come from radically different
backgrounds. Tenoch (Diego Luna) is the son of a well-connected politician,
while Julio (Gael Garcia Bernal) is the product of a decidedly lower-class,
broken-home environment. The tension inherent due to their varying social stations
repeatedly by roadside incidents ranging from migrating peasants to thuggish
police shakedowns -- provides an extra layer of depth that round both characters out nicely.
Luisa (Maribel Verdu) is the discontented 28-year-old Spanish wife of
Tenoch's arrogantly intellectual cousin.
The base motivation of the boys is never in doubt, and it's to Luna and
Bernal's credit that they never break from the childish behavior and macho
posturing required of their respective characters. The two revel in fart
jokes and relentlessly worship at the altar of Onan, all the while
objectifying women and retreating from the fact that the strongest
attraction felt is for one another.
Verdu's Luisa is the far
trickier role, being more archetypal Madonna/Whore masturbation fantasy than
actual three-dimensional character. Fortunately, Verdu does stellar work
interpreting a part that’s far too top heavy for its own good. When her
husband drunkenly calls her late at night to tell her he’s slept with
another women, the reaction by Verdu is awkward, mortified and enraged,
excruciatingly laid bare in front of the camera. A later scene, where the
boys peep into her hotel room in hopes of catching her naked, only to find her
weeping uncontrollably, works marvelously because Verdu handles the
emotional outburst so naturally.
Cuarón deftly manages the male coming-of-age road trip storyline. It's
Luisa's character -- specifically the enormous amount of psychic baggage she
must bear -- that doesn't translate as well. Luisa must satisfy the boys
sexually and be their mother too. She must be wise but impulsive, empathic
yet distant. It's asking too much, and the film suffers for it. What makes Tenoch and Julio so appealing is the lack of artificial depth imposed on
their characters. For a film that works so hard at being intensely
voyeuristic, having Luisa embody ideals and insights more than realistic
strengths and weaknesses is a disservice to the frank mood the movie strives
so earnestly to portray.
Another contrivance that detrimentally interferes with the film's direct tone is
the intermittent appearance of an omniscient narrator who informs us of not
only individual characters' unspoken thoughts and feelings, but the fate of
stray pigs as well! Such exposition would have been better handled through
action or dialogue: Stopping the momentum to impart this background
information is a huge narrative gamble that fails to pay off.
The acting is strong across the board and the dialogue reasonably spot-on.
But it's the hand-held camerawork of Emmanuel Lubezki (Ali, Sleepy
Hollow) that's the true star of the film, moving through the world of
Mexico City and beyond with incredible candor and ease.
Y Tu Mamá is an entertaining, powerful film that deals with sex in an
open, unashamed manner. And, unlike so many Hollywood teen flicks that have
come before it, actually respects the characters it's commenting on.
Unfortunately, the key female figure remains just that -- an embodiment of
feminine ideals rather than a flesh and blood woman.
design copyright © 2001-2011 Shaking Through.net. All original artwork,
photography and text used on this site is the sole copyright of the respective creator(s)/author(s). Reprinting, reposting, or citing any of the original
content appearing on this site without the written consent of Shaking
Through.net is strictly forbidden.