Nov. 17, 2005
Y tu mama tambien (2001)
Grade: 56/100

Director: Alfonso Cuaron
Stars: Diego Luna, Gael Garcia Bernal, Maribel Verdu

What it's about. This Mexican coming of age tale has close teenage friends Tenoch (Diego Luna) and Julio (Gael Garcia Bernal) on a road trip with beautiful older acquaintance Luisa (Maribel Verdu), who has her own agenda.

How others will see it. Here is a 'modern' film certain to offend many viewers. From their point of view, we have two spoiled teen children of rich, overly permissive and inattentive parents. These kids don't work and don't study. Instead, they indulge in alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana, ecstasy, offensive language, and multiple sex partners. They're dishonest as well.

Of course, these same character attributes and escapades only make the film more interesting to other viewers, who might even get off on the soft porn sex scenes. Three different wormen are involved (such information is important to some) but attractive, self-assured Luisa gets three sex scenes, as do Tenoch and Julio. Two sex scenes open the movie, to let us know that this is not a 'G' rated movie. The last of these lurid interludes has Tenoch and Julio kissing each other, so be forewarned if you think everything else is okay but not this.

Some may be annoyed that Mexicans are portrayed in a possibly negative light. This is relevant, since there are so few Spanish-language films that have crossed over to a wide Anglo audience. We have Like Water for Chocolate, with field workers, family curses, and revolutionary bandits, and the next big crossover Mexican movie is Y tu mama tambien, with its degenerate, indulged teens.

Then there's the folks who will reach for the remote once they realize that the characters are going to keep on talking in Spanish. Although, if it's on a DVD, they might first fast forward to the next sex scene, oblivious to any moral commentary on the part of the director. (More on this later.)

Yet another group of blind men confronted with the elephant will conclude that it is a non-Hollywood masterpiece that realistically portrays youth on the cusp of adulthood. Realistic, that is, if unsupervised kids can get stoned and have sex regularly without any consequences, which seems to be the way it goes in Y tu mama tambien.

How I felt about it. I liked the fact that the director veered on occasion from our major characters to show the status of the working poor, who clean the house, wash dishes, chauffeur, etc. in contrast with their privileged employers, whose major concern isn't paying the bills, or keeping a job, but who is sleeping with whom, not next year or next month, but today.

These directorial touches lose their way, however, when the story is interrupted to narrate a decade-old car crash that also injured some caged chickens. A mish-mash of national-level politics is briefly thrown in. Do we need to learn when the Mexican President attends a conference, or loses an election?

The moment of truth arrives when Luisa discovers (surprise!) that Julio and Tenoch are too immature to be reliable. The story does, however, have a final twist that makes Luisa's actions more plausible.