Drama / Films / World Cinema

Y Tu Mamá También

The ‘road movie’ is one of the least original genres in cinema. Perhaps it’s too easy – the duel meaning of the word journey as both a physical and emotional idea is something audiences now take for granted; it’s a staple of Hollywood, almost a cliché, and the audience knows what to expect – the long sunny shots of wide landscapes, the characters fighting around a dusty car and, of course, the final moments of self-discovery and personal growth. It’s hard to imagine a road movie making much of an impact when everyone already knows the rules, but sometimes a film sneaks along which manages to surprise people. Y Tu Mamá También is such a movie. Cuarón’s Mexican sex odyssey, whilst not particularly original, is such an energetic, exhilarating adventure that it manages to rev up the engine of its genre, proving that sometimes you don’t need to do anything new – you just need to do things right.y6The film throws itself open with a sex scene, setting the tone of things to come. Tenoch (Luna) spends one last night with his girlfriend – she’s off on a long trip to Italy, and the couple make a promise not to cheat on each other. Elsewhere, Tenoch’s best friend Julio makes the same promise to his girl. The two friends, or ‘charolastras’ as they call themselves (it’s a sign of being cool) immediately try to break said promises at a party – both are bored, over-sexed teenagers looking to have a good time, and a good time means sex, drugs and a whole lot of booze. Their answer to a good time however comes from an unexpected place – Luisa, a twenty eight year old, married Spaniard, whom the boys meet at a family festival, and flirting, try to have her accompany them to the beautiful (but fictional) beach, ‘Heaven’s Mouth.’ Reluctant at first, a couple of serious problems force Luisa to revaluate her life, and without thinking, she accepts their offer, leading to an impromptu road trip in which both boys try to have their way with the woman, without ever knowing of her real intentions, or the strain that she will have on their friendship, which may never be the same again at the trip’s end.y4So begins Y Tu Mamá También, working initially as a comedy, with Tenoch and Julio trying to impress the older Luisa with their stories of sexual prowess. The boys are best friends – numerous scenes of them naked together suggest the lack of boundaries between them, and this openness is refreshing; you really do feel like the two are extremely close…perhaps even a little bit too close. Bernal and Luna are excellent, coming across as youthful and arrogant at the start of the movie, but later, when their fun hits a little bit too close to home, both are allowed to go a little bit deeper with the characters, to explore the anger which comes with betrayal. Crucially, the audience believe in the friendship, and so genuinely care when it begins to fall apart.y3It falls apart, of course, because of Luisa, who provides a wedge between them. She’s their perfect woman – older, smarter, painfully sexy, and played perfectly by Verdú, who steals the film here. She manages to pull off numerous roles at once, coming across as mysterious and alluring, but also broken and scared. To the boys she is initially an object, and then a goal, then a lover, a mother, and finally a teacher – but it’s the audience who get to see the real Luisa, and just how tragic she actually is. She may be in control of the boys, but she isn’t in control of her own life. Everything comes together in a devastating final scene which completely pulls the rug out from under the viewer, and makes the entire film – with special regards to Verdú’s performance – turn retrospectively into something so much more powerful.y1The stunning performances are matched by Cuarón’s direction and visuals – the film is simply beautiful to look at. Though predictably it follows the conventional look of the road movie genre – wide, sunny vistas and long winding roads, it benefits from its distinctly Mexican scenery, which makes everything seem a little bit different and exciting; this is unfamiliar territory for English-speaking audiences, who really will feel lost in strange new land. And Cuarón is flexible too – he can give the audience both a sublime sunset and a silly sex scene, and he switches gears so easily, moving from comedy to drama and back again with an ease most directors would be envious of. At times the film is broad and crude, yet Cuarón always manages to sneak some subtlety back in – take one scene, where a beggar approaches the boys. Julio, being the poorer of the two, fumbles in his pocket for change, but takes his time so that Tenoch has to pay. It’s a blink and you’ll miss it moment which speaks volumes, illustrating both Julio’s pride and the key social differences between the boys. The film is full of little moments like this. Another of one of the movie’s most unique features is its narrated moments, which initially seem like a huge misstep on Cuarón’s part; the film literally stops dead to describe some random scene, which seems to derail the flow of the film. Though intrusive at first, the narration begins to work as a kind of chorus, and builds to a crushing crescendo towards the films climax. It’s also through the narration and its choice of morbid topics (car crashes, pig slaughter) that the film’s unsettling theme of death creeps in – death haunts the film, but brilliantly the audience won’t understand why until a second viewing.y5Y Tu Mamá También then is a little deeper than your average road movie. Cuarón takes a tried and tested idea and fills it with a new, sexual energy, managing to create a genre film which is both hilarious and touching, with excellent performances all round and some beautiful cinematography. It’s a road movie with a difference, and one which reaffirms why road movies were so popular in the first place. Highly recommended.

5/5

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3 thoughts on “Y Tu Mamá También

  1. Pingback: Gravity | Some Films and Stuff

  2. Pingback: The Dreamers | Some Films and Stuff

  3. Pingback: Ranking the Harry Potter Movies: From Worst to Best | Some Films and Stuff

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