Saturday, July 23, 2011

#351. Y Tu Mamá También (2001)

Directed By: Alfonso Cuarón

Starring: Maribel Verdú, Gael García Bernal, Ana López Mercado

Trivia:  The film grossed $2.2 million in its first week, the biggest opening ever for a Mexican film

Recent high school graduates Tenoch (Diego Luna) and Julio (Gael Garcia Bernal) are a couple of best friends who know how to have a good time. With their girlfriends off touring Italy, the two are planning the summer of a lifetime, rife with drugs, booze, and all the women they can handle. For them, these next few months are gonna be a real blast.

But one woman will change all that, and the bond between the young men will be tested as it's never been before.

In their search for a little fun, Tenoch and Julio embark on a road trip with a beautiful older woman named Luisa (Maribel Verdú), who's married to Tenoch's cousin, Esteban (Arturo Rios). Along the way, Luisa will open many doors for the friends, forcing them to face issues they were only too happy to ignore. In fact, that inner conflict we all experience, which creeps up on us somewhere between the exuberance of youth and the responsibility of adulthood, is a central theme of Y Tu Mamá También. At the start of the film, Tenoch and Julio are no longer in high school, yet they're also a long ways off from acting like grown-ups. For them, life is still one big party. 

Director Alfonso Cuaron explores this idea of frivolity versus obligation throughout Y Tu Mamá También, even going so far as to interject, from time to time, a narrator into the story (voiced by Daniel Gimenez Chaco), whose chief duty is to keep us in tune with the here and now, something the young protagonists dismiss on a regular basis. At one point, Tenoch and Julio are stuck in traffic, and pass the time clowning around in Tenoch's car, waiting for it to clear. Never once do they wonder what might have caused the jam-up in the first place. But the narrator fills us in, explaining that the traffic jam comes courtesy of Marcelino Escutia, a migrant bricklayer who was just struck and killed by a speeding bus. Moments like this make director Cuaron's central message ring out loud and clear: in spite of the fun his main characters are having, the world around them, full of tragedy and sadness, continues on.

Luna and Bernal are exceptional as the immature buddies, yet it's Maribel Verdú who delivers the film's finest performance. After receiving a tragic bit of news, Luisa finds herself in dire need of a diversion, and so joins the boys on their cross-country expedition. Yet instead of Tenoch and Julio taking her mind off her troubles, it's Luisa who has a much greater impact on her two companions. With Luisa as their guide, the boys will experience significant emotional growth out on the open road, and before their journey of self-discovery is complete, Tenoch and Julio will have traveled hundreds of miles across Mexico, and a million miles from the good times they once shared.