Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001)

Y Tu Mama Tambien begins with repeated declarations of fidelity and ends with repeated declarations of infidelity. It's about a woman who runs away from her husband — we assume — because he sleeps around, which is also why — we assume — she begins to sleep around on him, but we assume incorrectly. It's a coming-of-age story, a story about class and politics in modern Mexico, a philosophical treatise on how to live. It's also got some hot, hot sex scenes, which, after the lights go up, are suffused with melancholy because of what we learn later.

Written by:
Alfonso Cuaron
Carlos Cuaron

Directed by:
Alfonso Cuaron

Maribel Verdu
Gael Garcia Bernal
Diego Luna
Marta Aura
Diana Bracho
Emilio Echevarria
Griselle Audirac

Best actor awards for both Bernal and Luna at the Valdivia (Chile) Film Festival and the Venice Film Festival. Nominations for Best Foreign Language Film from the British Indepedents and the Golden Globes. Nothing from the Academy.

"Did you read my book?"
"I read the reviews."
"Critics are assholes."

The early declarations of fidelity are demanded from Tenoch (Diego Luna), a baby-faced teenager, of his girlfriend, Ana, who's about to leave for a summer in Europe. Post-coital, he asks her not to fuck any Italians, or gringos with backpacks, or French fags (even in Mexico, it seems, the French get no respect). When she and her friend Cecilia leave, Tenoch and his best friend, Julio (Gael Garcia Bernal), are girlfriend-less and restless at an age when their hormones are in overdrive. These two are the best cinematic examples of teenage boys we've seen in a long time. Their humor is adolescent and scatological. They get high and jack off by the pool. They brag about their sexual prowess — and believe their bragging — but they are better at fart jokes than they are in bed.

Slowly we realize differences between the two. Tenoch is not only baby-faced but baby-bodied (stripped, he doesn't have a noticeable muscle). He's also rich. His father works for the ruling party government, and when his sister gets married the President of Mexico attends the ceremony. Julio is shorter, tougher. He's not poor — his mother works as a secretary for a corporation — but he ain't in the same class. A key difference between the two is revealed by a third-person narrator who periodically interrupts the story to tell us about the inner lives of the characters. After Julio uses the bathroom at Tenoch's house, he lights a match to hide his smell. (The bathroom is too good for him.) When Tenoch uses the bathroom at Julio's house, he uses his foot to lift the lid. (He's too good for the bathroom.)

At Tenoch's sister's wedding they run into Tenoch's cousin-by-marriage, Luisa (Maribel Verdu), who's there with her blowhard of a husband, Jano, and both boys chat her up, and encourage her to tag along with them to Boca del Cielo (Heaven's Mouth), a deserted beach that they are obviously making up. When Jano, off at a conference, phones Luisa and blubbers about his unfaithfulness (shades of An Unmarried Woman), she rescues the boys from their summer lassitude by taking them up on their offer.

During the road-trip the boys tell her about their loose, teenaged club, the charolastras (roughly "astral cowboys") and its manifesto, which includes such rules as "Do whatever you feel like," and "You shall not screw another charolastra's girl." But after Julio witnesses Luisa seducing Tenoch, Julio reveals that he once screwed Tenoch's girl. After Luisa seduces Julio, Tenoch reveals the same about Julio's girl. Their camaraderie is shattered, and the road-trip only continues because Luisa makes new rules which give her absolute authority. A deserted beach is then magically found; and then, even more magically, a beach called Boca del Cielo.

Y Tu Mama Tambien is framed well by the fidelity issue, while the third-person narration, reminiscent of New Wave cinema, informs and deepens its characters. The film also feels real. When the boys first meet Luisa they unintentionally crowd her, as if, at this age, they simply need to be near a woman the way a moth needs to be near a flame. It's a film about youthful adventure but its themes are adult: that people are rarely faithful (which the title confirms); that youthful male friendship has trouble surviving economics; and that the sea is there to swim in.

—October 30, 2002

© 2002 Erik Lundegaard