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Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001)
Directed by: Alfonso Cuaron
Starring: Maribel Verdu, Gael Garcia Bernal, Diego Luna
Rated: R for Strong Sexual Content Involving Teens, Drug Use and Language
Running Time: 1 h 46 m
TMM Score: 4.5 stars out of 5
STRENGTHS: Writing, Acting, Cinematography, Directing
WEAKNESSES: Subject Matter Will Turn Away Some Viewers
Two teenage boys take an older woman on a road trip to the beach, and along the way they learn things about themselves and their lives.
This is not a movie that I would recommend to everyone. There is a decent amount of sex in this movie, and at times it can be a little graphic. Even from the first shot of this film, a single long take of a teenage couple making love, it’s apparent that sex is a major theme in this movie. It’s a coming of age film, and our two protagonists, Tenoch (Diego Luna, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) and Julio (Gael Garcia Bernal, The Motorcycle Diaries) are young, horny boys that like to flirt with other girls when their girlfriends aren’t around. But while sex is a primary theme in this movie, it has opinions and insights on plenty of other things as well. It’s a film that examines growing up in a very honest way, and it’s messy and strange. Tenoch and Julio learn things about honesty and trust, about friendship, love and heartbreak, the culture of Mexico, life and even death. The older woman who accompanies the boys, Luisa (Maribel Verdu, Pan’s Labyrinth), learns things about herself while teaching the boys things about themselves. The film is elevated by its extraordinary technique and ingenuity, it’s incredible attention to detail, and the omnipotent narrator who adds spice to the world we’re visiting. This movie is a celebration of being human in a way that shows us at our most vulnerable. It’s crass at times because of the lewdness of Julio and Tenoch, but it has so much to say.
(SOME SPOILERS IN THE FOLLOWING PARAGRAPH)
The premise for this movie is rather simple. Two teenagers, Julio and Tenoch, ask Luisa, an older married woman, to come with them to the beach. It’s quite obvious that the boys have sex on their mind, and at first Luisa doesn’t show much interest. But when Luisa’s husband calls to tell her that he cheated on her, Luisa decides to go with the boys to the beach after all. Along the way the three of them become close, learning about each other and the world around them.
Since this is a Christian review site, I do feel it is necessary to point out some of the major themes in this film are infidelity and the heartbreak that can come from that. There are a decent amount of sex scenes in the film as well. If this is something that offends you, I would steer clear of this movie.
Alfonso the Amazing
Alfonso Cuaron has a rather impressive filmography. Children of Men is one of my personal all time favorite films, but he also directed A Little Princess (1995), Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban (2004), and Gravity (2013), for which he won best director and best editing. One thing Cuaron is fantastic at is blocking and cinematography. This film features several sequences where all of the action is shot in one take, the camera moves with the characters, sometimes through different rooms, to reveal a deeper world. There’s one scene in particular when the three lead characters are driving in their car and they pass another car. As they pass the car, the camera follows the cars action, but it gets closer and further away based on the intensity of the dialogue. It’s an incredibly dynamic shot that says something about how the characters are feeling, but it also goes out of its way to show more of the Mexican countryside, and show just how wide the world Cuaron has created. There are plenty of long dialogue scenes in this film that happen completely in one shot, and it makes the character’s interactions and conversations feel even more genuine.
Cuaron co-wrote this film with his brother, Carlos Cuaron, and the two of them received a nomination for best original screenplay. The dialogue in this movie is rather crass at times, but it feels natural for how the boys would actually talk. There’s plenty of what Donald Trump would call “locker room talk,” but it gives us great insight into the maturity of the characters. At the beginning of this movie, they speak of juvenile things, behave like hoodlums, and care about nothing other than joking around. But by the end of this film, the boys have shared so much more of themselves, and as a result they’ve grown up. When we leave Julio and Tenoch, both of them are behaving like adults. They’re dynamic characters, but the shift feels believable and earned, not at all forced. Luisa also changes quite a bit in this movie, but her character is revealed more slowly than the boys. She’s a bit more mysterious, and her motives for doing what she does are sometimes hard to figure out, but it makes her a more interesting character.
Another thing that’s great about this movie is its insight into Mexican culture. Cuaron shows us political protests, festivals, food, all sorts of things, and each thing makes the world a little richer. The narrator knows everything about the boys and the world on which they’re travel, and sometimes gives us insights into things we wouldn’t have known before. There’s a sequence where they three characters are driving down a road and the narrator tells us of an accident that happened at the very spot a few years earlier. That sort of insight gives the world so much more depth; it makes it feel like the film exists in a world with a past, present, and future.
This movie is an amazingly crafted film. As far as road trip movies go, this and Wild Strawberries are probably the best out there. This film does have a bit of objectionable material, so I warn off those who are offended by sexual material. This is a great character driven film with lots of inventive camera work, clever and frequently funny writing, and top-notch acting from all three of the leads.
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