Classic movie review: Y tu mamá también (2001)

2009-01-17 17:45
 

They say if you want your film to be a success, open with a sex scene. And this movie starts with quite a few, as the two teenage friends somehow pull off a last shag with their girlfriends, who're about to go to Italy together. But this movie isn't just, as some first-time watchers claimed, a kind of Latin-American Pie set in Mexico - its recipe contains much more magic.    


So, what happens? Well after their girlfriends go overseas and leave them bored, two teenage friends from different sides of the tracks Julio (Gael García Bernal) and Tenoch (Diego Luna) take an impulsive road trip to a beach with a beautiful older woman, Luisa (Maribel Verdú), who's just discovered that she's dying, and decided to leave her husband. Travelling through a land in a stage of change, they explore themselves - and each other.

Some classic movies are very beautiful, some are funny, some are moving and others are good for you (like Brussels sprouts without butter) and others are great once, but don't call them in the morning.

Y tu mamá también brings all the wonderful things about the best films together in one movie, and adds extra lashings of laughter, leaving just enough roughness and space to breathe, making it the kind of movie you can watch over and over, and laugh at again and again. You can discover new meanings and beauties in its darker crevices, and even fall in love with things that at first seemed to be its flaws.

It's about three people whose futures are in the balance, and who're flinging themselves at life and abandoning themselves to the consequences, but who're coming from different places. Luisa knows her life will end soon, and is willing to teach what she can before she's gone, and live as hard as she can until it's all over. Julio Zapata (Bernal) comes from a leftist middle-class background and will be studying at community college the next year, while Tenoch (Luna) believes he'll defy his high-ranking politico father's conservative wishes and become a writer. But nothing is certain, and on the journey, the three of them drift from place to place, from conversation to conversation on the way to their destination, finding out secrets, ending up in bed, making mistakes and having revelations too.

Over the course of the movie, the title's meaning morphs and reinvents itself. At first it means "And your mother too", as in "Jou ma se…" as the boys first josh around farting in the car and jerk off together. Then it means that Luisa is both a lover and a mother to the young men. Then it means she's a woman who's lost her mother, too. Later it even means that there's nothing that's really out of bounds… not even Tenoch's mother. In the end, it just seems to say that we're all human - that humanity is somehow always the same from generation to generation - your mother too.

The Mexico around Luisa, Julio and Tenoch mirrors their restless, dangerous state. It's messy and dirty and politically unstable, but also idealistic and passionate. Likewise, the sex scenes are as awkwardly erotic and naked as real sex is sometimes. Unlike many commercial films, Y tu mama doesn't use the shagging as a slow-mo drawcard for dumbass horny punters. Instead, the sex scenes (though more explicit than Hollywood's) are just part of how people live, and what they mean to one another other. 

Though the movie (or Cuarón's direction of it) has an unmistakeable style on the surface, it doesn't dominate the characters, who are the more compelling and real because they're never stereotypes. This is a film about how extraordinary some moments in ordinary lives can be, and how small even the most extraordinary things are in the greater scheme.

Now and then, the film's action will freeze to let a deadpan, faceless narrator give insight into the places the characters pass through, telling of experiences seemingly unrelated characters have had there, or what will happen to occasional characters in the future. Startlingly vivid, these stories are like those odd moments (a look, a comment) that stick in your memory sometimes. You know - the ones you don't always expect to stay, but that do? In any case, these vivid flashes of life are a reminder that life and memory can't be completely controlled - only lived.

This all makes Y tu mamá también sound terribly serious. Well, it's not - not in the sense of straight-faced. The opening theme song is called "Here comes the Mayo", and they don't mean mayo...  Every time I watch it, I laugh most of the time - but I also I cry now and then, wish I could jump through the screen and into someone's bed, and think about what it means for days afterwards. I finish off feeling like I’m in love - with the characters, with going to Mexico, and with the idea of making a movie just like this in South Africa one day.

So you know…

Alfonso Cuarón also directed the equally brilliant but darker-themed Children of Men (2006) and an instalment of Harry Potter, among other films.

The movie has a powerful but never explicit political current, and all the main characters are named for important historical figures in Mexico.

Although the movie had a relatively good budget, they cut corners where they could. For example, when they needed to show drops of semen going into a swimming pool, they made do with a bit of shampoo.

The first scene of the movie was filmed last.

The movie has an unusually long tagline which translates as follows: "Life has its way of teaching us. Life has its way of confusing us. Life has its way of changing us. Life has its way of astonishing us. Life has its way of hurting us. Life has its way of curing us. Life has its way of inspiring us."


A few quotes:

Luisa: You have to make the clitoris your best friend.
Tenoch: What kind of friend is always hiding?

Luisa: Who cares who you two f*cked when you come that fast!

Julio Zapata: Traveling is really cool
Tenoch: Yeah, but with mushrooms! You've never stepped into a single plane

Luisa: Play with babies and you'll end up washing diapers!




"And your mother too…" This classic coming of age film is a funny, sad, erotic road movie set in Mexico. Here’s why it will seduce you again and again.

arne botha 2009/01/11 7:49 AM
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where in port elizabeth can we view this movie?
Zelli 2009/01/11 8:55 AM
Where can I see this movie? You don't mention if it is a DVD review or if it is currently showing. Is it on TV today (Sunday classic)? If it is showing somewhere on the big screen could you let us know where?
Peter 2009/01/11 3:30 PM
useless information as it does not indicate where it is showing. wasted my time reading it.
lidija 2009/01/11 4:27 PM
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the movie isn't "showing" anywhere. it's quite an older movie as you would have seen by the word "classic". and if an article prickles you enough to be interested in showtimes etc then all the information is available only a mouse click away. google it.
Martin 2009/01/12 7:31 AM
MWEB at work again, abundant useless information that is vague and quite out of date.
Jean Barker 2009/01/12 3:03 PM
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Hi all. Lidija thanks for actually reading the story properly ;-) As you said, this is a classic movie feature, in other words it's about a movie that's survived the years, not a new movie on circuit. The idea with these write-ups is that you go get it out on DVD at your local rental place. Most good DVD stores will have YTMT in stock for sale, too, and there's a pretty cool short movie included on the DVD.
Jon 2009/01/12 3:03 PM
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Love this movie
Jansen 2009/01/14 2:47 PM
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Some of you are complete morons. Did the title, which included both the word "Classic" and the year of release, 2001 (!!!!), not tip you off that this wasn't on circuit?
Arnold 2009/01/14 2:47 PM
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good movie
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