Y Tu Mamá También Movie Review
As go the minds of most 17-year-olds, Tenoch and Julio think about sex. A lot. They talk about sex a lot. They quickly screw their girlfriends before the girls depart for a European summer vacation, they simultaneously masturbate while hollering out their thoughts (Salma Hayek!), and they make fun of their respective, uh, members. Tenoch, the wealthy son of a politician, and Julio, living with his lower-class mother and activist sister, plan to spend the summer getting high and getting laid.
When the boys conjure up images of a fictitious beach to impress Luisa, the young wife of Tenoch's cousin, she buys it, and asks to go with them. Surprised, the guys make a couple of quick moves (like getting a car), and the trio is on the road. They cruise through Mexico, on a road to nowhere, unsure of their destination... especially because it doesn't really exist.
Cuarón and his co-screenwriter brother Carlos create the journey as a symbolic fantasy, a trip taken for the hell of it, representing the lack of direction for all three characters. The boys, unsure of their futures, and certainly over-confident in their sexual prowess, live an almost existential life. It doesn't really dawn on them that, at some point, they will have to end up somewhere. For Luisa, she feels that a new, foreign, uncharted path is just what she needs - her life has been consumed with caring for a sick relative and quickly marrying. She's never had the experiences of raging like an animal, playing games, controlling men.
Boy, does she get her chance on this road trip. If sex was front-and-center for the boys before they left, it's an all-encompassing phenomenon once on the open trail. Cuarón does a fantastic job of combining raw, unabashed desire with complex awkwardness, shooting many scenes with no-edit, single takes, allowing his incredible actors (Diego Luna, Gael Garcia Bernal from Amores Perros, and the astounding Maribel Verdu) to live the roles. The dialogue is graphic, and the performers are wonderfully shameless and boldly courageous. The whole package makes for enticing, sometimes eye-popping, excitement.
Cuarón does comment on the economic and class structure of Mexico - similarly and with sometimes as heavy a hand as Kurosawa in his modern-day Tokyo films - but they are topics worth thinking about, especially as the poor and displaced surround he three aimless characters.
An additional treat is Cuarón's use of an objective narrator - he fills in the blanks as the rest of the film's soundtrack disappears. In the film's opening, he provides the backstory; toward the middle, he lets us know characters' thoughts and secrets; and at the end, he tells of a future that no one else in the film knows. It is a thoughtful, humorous tool, which Cuarón even uses to drive some anticipation, eliminating the film's sound each time, but then waiting a couple of breathless seconds before adding the narration.
There are coming-of-age movies out there nearly all the time, but very few with the heart and wild sexual soul of this one. But you can forget your bittersweet Summer of '42 or your goofy-raunchy American Pie. It's brutal action and graphic discussion by way of a pre-adult road tale. And as for the title, it means "And Your Mother Too." You figure it out.
This fascinating film earns a very nice DVD presentation -- the unrated version (linked at right) is slightly racier and includes three deleted scenes. A commentary track from the cast is in Spanish only, but the clever 12-minute short film of Cuarón's is worth a peek (and plays on more of the oversexed themes from Y Tu Mama). The de rigueur making-of film (the title of which translates as Behind Your Mother Too) is skippable. None of this, of course, should detrack from the movie itself, which stands as one of the best of the year.