(Release Date: June 8, 2001)
(USA Release Date: March 15, 2002)
The primary plot surrounds two Mexico City Teenage Lotharios who have dubbed themselves the Charolastras (roughly translated to "Space Cowboys"). Tenoch (Diego Luna) is the pampered son of a Mexican Government official, while best friend Julio (Gael García Bernal) lives an above average, but still lower middle class lifestyle. When both of their girlfriends head off to Europe for a school trip El Charolastras plan to play like mice with the cat away! At this point in the story the drama (as well as the ubiquitous narration) paints the picture of the selfishness and libertine natures of our principles. Never is this better seen than in the meeting of the heart-throbbingly lovely Spanish wife of Tenoch's cousin Jano! When the boys meet Luisa (played with both eroticism and dignity by Maribel Verdú) they create a fictional scenario surrounding a road trip to a fictional beach called "Heaven's Mouth" by which both boys plan to have their lecherous way with Lovely Luisa! By a strange, yet plausible, series of events, the ruse works, and the road trip begins.
What follows is an emotional arc of sex and self discovery that reaches its peaks and spikes in completely unforeseeable ways. The film rarely stops being sexy (I mean how many films feature a toast to the Clitoris?), nor does it stop being a feature for Tenoch and Julio to display their Machismo... however the Cuarón brothers take the story and the concepts displayed therein and twist your expectations on to their proverbial ears! Strange and unforeseen events have a way to make lies truth and truth reality and they do so here on this bizarre journey to Heaven's Mouth. The boys clash, argue and battle each other, while Luisa plays both adversary and referee alternately ("Play with babies and you end up washing Diapers!" she exclaims in frustration). The ultimate answer to the questions posed here is not predictable at all but instead is truly plausible and realistic. In many ways Julio and Tenoch are the natural continuation of Stiffler and Jim from American Pie, but in deeper and more subtle ways they are the modern day irrepressible (and unrepressed) Thomas and Henry from 1964's Becket! These Libertines befall a stranger fate than Becket was prepared to present. See both films and maybe you'll get my meaning! (Obscurity, thy name is KNEUMSI!)
Technically the film is very well done. Cuarón knows how to handle his camera work, and lets his well-written dialogue tell the story. He also lets Mexico's varied and alternately beautiful and ugly landscape serve as a character all its own. The local color and the changing scenery practically bleeds culture. As a compliment to this, Cuarón never falls on camera filters to highlight Mexico in any way, and instead presents the beauty and the poverty as it really is. The dialogue is the true driver of this film (followed by the visual clues that come close to being as important). Characters can simply sit back and talk and be vastly more interesting than, say the biggest explosion in Armageddon! Aside from dialogue there are many very interesting and quotable one-liners to be found in this Gem! Never are the Cuarón brothers preachy or insulting to your intelligence, but they do know when to make something memorable when they want it remembered!
The acting is realistic to the point of improvisation. It would be unlikely that much of this was improvised due to the weight of many of the conversations, but it feels that real. Verdú is really quite beautiful with or without clothes, and really portrays a full range of emotions above and beyond what the admittedly good actors Luna and Bernal do. Never does she rely on her significant beauty to carry Luisa, but backs up Luisa with real acting and believability! For non-Spanish Speaking viewers (and I speak nary a word), the subtitles are printed in Yellow (unlike El Mariachi's white on white sand) and are a readable contrast to the picture (when they don't go by too fast)!
Personally, I loved the film, but there are some notable detractions that keep this from being perfect. The narration is important here, and doesn't signify the failure of the Cuarón brothers as storytellers! However the Narration tends to break in at odd times and overpower the continuity of the film. Each time the Narrator (Daniel Giménez Cacho) breaks in to further the story he is preceded by a muting of the ambient sounds of the film, and each time I always wanted to check to see if the Independent Film Channel was "Experiencing Technical Difficulties!" I agree this is a valid way to do things, and it worked, but it was a little disconcerting. It's clear that the creators intended to take the audience for a ride both literally and figuratively, however the surface of the film might turn off some casual viewers. On the same hand there is quite a lot of Male Frontal Nudity as well, that is unsettling unless you're weaned on Fontana's Oz! And I am! Many just don't want to see a Mexican Porky's and aren't willing to sit through the romping set up to see that Y tu mamá también is anything but that! I urge you to sit through this to see what the film is in reality!
As Lucia says "Life is like the surf so give yourself away to the sea!" What does that mean? Watch the film. Because the Cuarón brothers chose not to insult our intelligence but take us on a twisting ride I'm going with Four Stars out of Five for Y tu mamá también. If it borders on Soft Core Porn at times at least it's soft core porn you can watch without feeling guilty over having watched. The writing, acting and directing more than elevates the film from its surface appearance to a great and deep filmic drama! Be prepared to read when you watch this dialogue-heavy film unless your Spanish is great. Be prepared to be titillated, moved and surprised as well. Now if you don't mind, this Charolastra needs to check out the trailer to the new Harry Potter movie. I hear in this one we find out what really happened to your Dad at the hands of Voldemort, Harry... and your Mother too!
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