November 4, 2013

Y Tu Mama Tambien

Alfonso Cuaron, 2001

Set in Mexico, privileged teens Julio (Gael Garcia Bernal) and Tenoch (Diego Luna) encounter a beautiful older woman named Luisa (Maribel Vernu) at a prominent family wedding. They attempt to impress her by telling her their plans to travel to a faraway beach. When she surprises them by showing interest in tagging along with them, they scramble to put the trip together. Little do they realize the impact this road trip will have on the rest of their lives.

Alfonso Cuaron's coming-of-age, hormone-driven road-trip film runs on a much traveled road (no pun intended) but certainly takes its own original path. At times very raw and offensive, but also very authentic and honest. To simply call it a road trip film would be unfair. It's about life experience. Growth. Love. Being young. Living in the moment. Indulgence. Change. Consequences of past actions. The barren, destitute Mexican towns and villages give way to serene coastal views. The abandoned road-sides give way to sand-floor Cantinas. The run down motels give way to a welcoming tent on the white beach. Julio and Tenoch, moderately wide eyed and innocent, give way to experience and life lessons. Their relentless sex-drive is quite evident early on. In a way it could be the most exaggerated feature of the film, but its clear that it reinforces the overall theme. At times they come off as selfish and lazy, but there are snippets of generosity and kindness here and there (they never turn away a beggar or anyone holding a cup out). They are loyal friends, for the most part. They are young, thrill-seeking, and unaccountable. And then enters Luisa. They ascend on her at the family wedding like hungry wolves. When she jumps at the idea of going to the ocean with them, they are surprised. Little do they know she has her own agenda. But regardless, she becomes instrumental in changing them forever. Maribel Verdu brings a lot of vulnerability and experience to her performance.

The film has a memorable visual elements but also has a fitting score along with interesting narration peppered in throughout. Although there are hints of danger and political unrest in the film, Cuaron's Mexico appears to be actually quite kind. When there's a breakdown on the side of the road, there are helpful hands that will help tow via tractor. When the group sit down for a meal during their travels, there's less of an emphasis on monetizing and more of an emphasis on community and enjoyment. There's an obvious disparity of wealth, but there's no judgement present. The film has a story that grows and goes. And who knows, by the end of the trip maybe you'll be changed too.

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