Years before Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron was winning Academy Awards for movies like Gravity (2013) and Roma(2018), he directed a small, intimate film about two best friends who decide to embark on an improvised road trip to spend time with an older, attractive woman who miraculously agrees to go with them. Y tu Mamá También is a deep journey into the raw sexuality and friendship of the young protagonists, as well as a subtle social and political commentary on Mexico at the time.
Julio (Gabriel Garcia Bernal) and Tenoch (Diego Luna) are 17-year-old teenagers living in Mexico City. They come from vastly different social classes, and Cuarón makes it clear without them actually acknowledging it. On a family wedding, they meet Luisa (Maribel Verdu), an older Spanish woman who immediately grabs the interest of both Julio and Tenoch. When talking to her, they brag about a secret, very exclusive, and beautiful beach called Boca del Cielo, which they claim to know the location. Of course, they improvised the whole thing, and they don’t actually know anything about it. Luisa dismisses them at the wedding but calls them later after getting some bad news. So, the trio depart on Tenoch’s sister’s beat up car, travelling through rural Mexico to get to the promised beach.
Cuarón decided to have a narrator, so the soothing, somewhat indifferent voice of Daniel Gimenez populates the film, giving out small details about the protagonists as well as the background context of Mexico’s poor economic and social situation. I’m not a fan of narration in film, because it almost always feels cheap and lazy to have a narrator explaining everything instead of showing it through storytelling technique. However, there’s something oddly poetic about Cuarón’s words and the way they are delivered. I can’t imagine the film having as much impact as it did without the narration. The final words are said by the narrator, and it’s one of the most melancholic, haunting endings even though not much emotion is being shown on screen.
I think on the surface, Y tu Mamá También (2001) is a fun, raunchy road trip movie that can be enjoyed as a representation of Mexican life. Julio and Tenoch are drastic representations of two social classes that you’ll encounter in Mexico City, yet their friendship is so strong it might make the viewer wonder if it’s realistic at all. Let me tell you that it is. Few films that I have seen feature a friendship as authentic as this one, even when things eventually go sour for our two friends. After all, they are teenagers who mostly act according to their hormones. They continuously fight for Luisa’s admiration, boasting and acting like a couple of macho males. By the end, Cuarón ends up exploring their fragile masculinity, which comes to surface a little too much, altering their relationship forever.
I have to mention Maribel Verdu’s impeccable performance as Luisa. She acts as a sort of third protagonist once the film gets going, and it adds a much-needed relief from Tenoch and Julio’s dynamic. Luisa, being older, beautiful, and foreign to the boys, is what makes her so attractive to them. Watching as an outsider, there’s no possible reason she would agree to go with these two knuckleheads, yet there is something she isn’t telling them. Luisa has just broken up with her long-term boyfriend, Jano. She also learns that he cheated on her in the process, explaining why she decides to use this opportunity as a liberation. Be it spiritual or sexual, she goes along with it, taking advantage of every moment of the trip. What she finds at the end brings her the peace and closure she was looking for, faithfully completing her arc.
It wouldn’t be fair not to mention Emmanuel Lubezki’s intimate cinematography. The camera is restless, moving around our character’s and their unique environment. It goes hand in hand with the tone of the film, which feels like a rebellious, carefree journey with little restraint for safety and rules. Lubezki handles the camera as if he is an unacknowledged spectator. He offers a unique first-person point of view, even during the film’s most sexual and intimate moments.
Y tu Mamá También is a magnificent achievement in storytelling, character study and a deep exploration of Mexico’s gaping flaws. It’s funny, raunchy, explicit, sad, and above all, authentic. Cuarón delivers a movie for posterity, forever encapsulating the socio-cultural situation of Mexico in the beginning of the 2000s.
Movie Score: 5
Incluvie Score: 4.5
Related lists created by the same author
Related diversity category
This list was made with the intention of celebrating the craft. I love seeing more women of colour on this list than before and more newcomers on the scene as well!
Death on the Nile (1978) film mindless entertainment playing out on sets and wonders larger than the stakes, both of these films fail to live up to the hype of Agatha Christie's mystery. Check out cast & characterless controversy.