January 6, 2003 -- "Y tu mamá también" (And Your Mother, Too) has been named to a lot of 2002 top 10 lists, especially American "foreign language" (even though Spanish isn't exactly a foreign language in the U.S.) film lists. It is easy to see why: It has a lot of sex in it. No, seriously, it really is a good film, not great, but one of the better foreign language films I've seen this year.
It starts out like one of those brainless teen sex road comedies that make me want to puke, but, thank God, it has a lot more to it than that. Part of the plot sounds like the plot description in "Boogie Nights" described during the film something like this: "We open with Julio going at it with his girlfriend, then we go to another shot where Tenoch goes at it, then Julio goes at it with Luisa then Tenoch goes at it with Luisa, then they all go at it together." In other words, there is a lot of sex, and a lot of nudity, of both the male and female kind. There is also a lot of drug use in the movie. The main characters in the film, Luisa (played by Maribel Verdú of "Belle Epoque"), Julio Zapata (played by Gael García Bernal), and Tenoch Iturbide (Diego Luna), are all fairly well to do. The two teenage boys seem to have most of the same tastes and vices as boys in the U.S. Luisa 10 years older than the boys, 31, but very attractive.
The three decide to take a road trip to the coast of Mexico to find an out-of-the-way beach. The boys are bored and their girlfriends are away on a trip to Europe. Luisa has just broken up with her husband after he cheated on her. The road trip with the boys at first seems like a new start for her, but there is more going on here than what is obvious at the surface of the story. There is a subtext to all this sex, not just for Luisa, but for Julio and Tenoch, too. Julio and Tenoch are best of friends, they live by a list of principles to maintain their friendship. But, as in a John Cassavetes film, sex and a bottle tequila finally forces the truth out of the boys. They have not been following their own code of ethics, and their relationship is more complicated than they thought it was. The trip changes all of them forever in profound ways. More revelations follow the trip.
In addition to the narrative, the movie includes several little side stories about Mexico, exploring its culture, economics and politics. A narrator provides context for these little vignettes. These pieces give the film an additional layer of meaning to go with the main narrative. What all this adds up to is a different kind of coming of age film, a little bit similar to "The Summer of '42" in its gravity. The cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki ("Sleepy Hollow") is very evocative, showing us the rich variety of Mexico's countryside. Director Alfonso Cuarón (who also wrote the screenplay with his brother, Carlos), keeps the film interesting throughout, with a lot of help from all those sex scenes, of course. This film rates a B.
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