Alfonso Cuaron’s “Y Tu Mama Tambien” (aka “And Your Mother Too”) is a simple Road Movie, and as such, it has all the right combination of character and revelations one expects from a movie in this particular genre. Newsmedia articles I have read on the movie have tended to focus on its stark look at the sexuality of its two main stars (both male teenagers); although considering that the movie is not exactly brimming over with sex, I don’t know what the fuss is about. (Can you say, “Product of a good P.R. machine?”)
“Mama Tambien” is about childhood friends Tenoch (Diego Luna) and Julio (Gael Bernal), two oversexed highschoolers who, like all oversexed highschoolers are want to do, are only concern with sex, drugs, and more sex. Trapped in the tedium of home life during the summer break and with their respective girlfriends abroad on vacation, the two are bored out of their minds. They spend their time masturbating and smoking dope, and bragging to each other about their sexual conquests, which may or may not be true.
Things look up when the duo spots Luisa (Maribel Verdu), a cousin of Tenoch by marriage. The teenagers hatch a plan to lure her out of the city with the promise of a road trip to a beach that doesn’t exist in order to — what else? — bed her. As it turns out, the formerly button-down Luisa has discovered that her no-good cheating husband has, once again, cheated on her, prompting her to take the boys up on their offer. Flabbergasted that their plan has worked, the boys make hasty arrangements, and the road trip begins — with unexpected results.
I use the term “unexpected results” loosely because Road Trip movies, by their very nature, are meant to produce “unexpected results.” In this way, Alfonso Cuaron (“Great Expectations”) really tackles nothing new. The movie throws a curveball at us toward the end, but the film’s main focus up to that point is that the boys, despite their braggart attitudes toward sex, are really just that — boys. They believe that because they have had sex and smoke dope that they are adults, and it’s Luisa’s presence, and her subsequent sexual encounters with them, that proves otherwise. And oh, there’s that whole thing about jumping headfirst into life and stuff.
One could call “Mama Tambien” a road trip through the Mexican countryside, since writer/director Cuaron makes a habit of interrupting the action with voiceover narration just this side of dull. Besides informing us on the backgrounds of our main characters (and even their futures), the voiceover goes into travelogue mode by letting us in on the intimate history of a particular stretch of road, a countryside town, and even the reason behind the death of a character we’ve never met. It’s a novel idea, but wholly unnecessary.
The acting in “Mama Tambien” is top notch, aided by the fact that both teenage actors Luna and Bernal are old hands in the acting game. (Luna was recently in the American vampire production “Vampires 2: Los Muertos”.) Spaniard Maribel Verdu has also been around the block a couple of times, and handles herself well. The trio chews up the dialogue with ease, shifting effortlessly back and forth between emotional highs and lows. The highlight of the film is the crisp dialogue and the interaction between the three actors.
There really is nothing about “Mama Tambien” that should make it any more controversial than the next film. Although its treatment of sexuality is shown in a frank and open manner (the boys strut around naked, penis hanging between their legs, on more than one occasion), the film is a peppy, even funny, road trip. While an epilogue brings the mood way down, the rest of the film is relatively upbeat, and the sex is more awkward and silly than realistic.
Personally I could do with or without Road Movies. “Y Tu Mama Tambien” is one of the better Road Movies I’ve seen, although not nearly the best. The direction by Cuaron is very flexible, but sometimes uneven. For example, Cuaron uses handheld cameras almost exclusively, giving the film a raw energy, but sometimes the camera just sits there, unsure where to go next, and instead pans around for no real reason. (The interior scenes, in particular.)
The movie is mostly about being young and carefree, as seen through the eyes of Tenoch and Julio, with Luisa offering the adult perspective. It should also be noted that the Mexican countryside is every bit as I expected; which is to say, it’s just as ugly as I’ve heard. No offense to its natives, or Cuaron, who is obviously very fond of it. On the other hand, the beaches are very nice.
Alfonso Cuaran (director) / Alfonso Cuaran, Carlos Cuaran (screenplay)
CAST: Maribel Verda …. Luisa Cort’s
Diego Luna …. Tenoch Iturbide
Gael GarcÃa Bernal …. Julio Zapata