Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Y Tu Mamá También (2001) - ★★★★★

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

Y Tu Mama Tambien is the best road trip movie I have ever seen. It's a masterful telling of a wild and crazy period in the lives of two young men and a middle-aged woman. Every now and then I come across a film that makes me feel elated for days after watching it. This is one of those movies. My favourite stories are ones that really capture the human condition, ones that tell real stories about real people. Sure, this is fiction, but that doesn't make the journey of these three lost characters any less meaningful (or beautiful for that matter). I love this film so much that I feel anything I write would be inadequate in doing it justice. It's a raw and confronting film, but one that grows on you as its tale unfolds. This is not a film to everyone's taste, but it happened to be just perfect for me.

Tenoch (Diego Luna) and Julio (Gael Garcia Bernal) have been best friends for years. They're pretty much joined at the hip, constantly doing something silly with each other. When they bump into Tenoch's cousin, Luisa (Maribel Verdu), they learn that she always wanted to visit the most beautiful beaches in Mexico. They conjured up a fake beach called Heaven's Mouth, where they promised to take her. She eventually takes them up on that offer, which is where the wild road trip begins. Truths unfold, crazy-beautiful things happen, and I sat in awe of the awesomeness that is Y Tu Mama Tambien! 

Three brilliant actors with such perfect chemistry. A recipe for success!
If there’s one thing I really appreciate about this film, it’s how well-crafted the characters are. Even in the first half hour, I felt as if I knew the characters well. A lot of this is to do with the masterful way they introduce their backgrounds. Everything goes silent save for a voice-over that tells us a brief tale of their pasts. With this small information, it’s easy to follow the character’s actions and thought processes. It made the story flow in a smooth and exciting fashion. The only thing that’s left to be anticipated is what wacky, sex-filled adventure will come next. Frivolity aside, Alfonso Cuaron managed to make me feel excited about these fictional characters in the same way that Jean-Pierre Jeunet did in the film Amelie. There are a lot of comparisons that could be made, yet both films have such different and unique stories.  

As strange as this sounds, there’s so much truth to this film. The mannerisms of the characters, the things they say and do… it’s just completely natural. One of my favourite moments is when Luisa talks to Tenoch and Julio about how she met her husband, and how horrible looking after her aunt was for 5 years. It’s clearly a dark place for her to delve back into, so she changes the subject almost immediately after she finished the story. I think she stopped talking about it because she felt self-conscious about boring the guys with her serious history. It’s also not a very nice subject for her to talk about, so that would be another reason for her to cut her story short. That scene just felt like a normal conversation with normal people. That’s something most films lack these days. 

I also adored the music and cinematography throughout. Some of the songs they listened to on the road-trip were just... awesome. My kind of music. As for the camera-work, Cuaron used one of my personal favourite techniques. He lingers in a scene well after the characters have said their peace. When Luisa finished leaving a message at her apartment, the camera panned across the room and through the window. It gave us a glimpse of the sort of life she lived, and the stark contrast of where she is heading on the road trip. It's just another masterful example of crafting the characters, letting us know who they were and who they are. 

A haunting and masterful scene. Maribel Verdu was phenomenal.
Maribel Verdu gave one of my all time favourite supporting performances, one that should have earned her an Oscar nomination at least. I'd give her the Oscar myself, because of the way she brought such depth, spontaneity, vulnerability, and beauty to her character. Sure, Cuaron crafted the character of Luisa well, but Verdu is the reason she will stay in my mind forever. It was a truly outstanding performance. Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal both gave stellar performances. They played young, pot-smoking, sex obsessed men. With characters like that, there's a very fine line between believable and stereotypical. They pulled it off big time, with their infectious airiness and seemingly solid friendship. Their chemistry with each other, and with Verdu, was the most important ingredient to make this film work. In my opinion, you couldn't have cast better actors to play these unforgettable characters.

As for the ending... it rendered me utterly speechless. It made me stop and think, then realise all of the signs that led to the conclusion. When all is said and done, it showed that their wild road-trip was but a small chapter in their lives, and probably the most important chapter they'll ever live. It was just so unexpected and a little bit depressing, but I would not change a thing about it. 

Watching Y Tu Mama Tambien was one of the greatest movie-going experiences I have ever had. In the end, that's all that needs to be said. 


  1. Good review Ben. Very honest and raw in its depiction of sexually coming-of-age, but also never gratuitous.

  2. Good review. I liked this film quite a bit, as well. I loaned it to a co-worker and it basically introduced him to Gael Garcia Bernal, who became somewhat of an obsession for him. If you haven't seen them, I recommend Bernal's films Amores Perros and The Crime of Padre Amaro. For Maribel Verdu try Pan's Labyrinth and Belle Epoque. I've not seen Luna in any other memorable roles unfortunately.

    1. I haven't seen many of Bernal's films. Amores Perros is on the top of my watch list! As for Verdu, I adored her performance in Pan's Labyrinth. I knew I recognised her from somewhere. She's a very versatile actress, that's for sure. I've seen Luna in the hollywood sci-fi/action flick 'Elysium' with Matt Damon. Didn't do much for me though :)