Y Tu Mamá También
dir.: Alfonso Cuarón
R, 105 min.
Now playing at Regal Green Hills 16
After depositing their Italy-bound girlfriends at the airport, high school buds Tenoch (Gael García Bernal) and Julio (Diego Luna) face a long summer of teen indolenceboasting and scamming, drinking and smoking weed. Then they meet Luisa (Maribel Verdú), an alluring “older” woman who surprisingly encourages their clumsy come-ons. Soon the three are headed to a hastily invented, likely nonexistent beach, Heaven’s Mouth, in a well-traveled car seemingly fueled by the pervasive musk of sexual tension and possibility. The setup is worthy of American Pie, if not the Porky’s franchiseand indeed, in its native Mexico, Y Tu Mamá También ranks as the country’s all-time box-office champ.
But in the U.S., this raunchy teen road-romp has earned the dubious designation “foreign film,” an amorphous category that includes such disparate popular entertainments as Amélie, Run Lola Run and Brotherhood of the Wolf. What ultimately distinguishes these proven crowd-pleasers from their domestic pop-cult brethren, however, isn’t so much language as intelligence (or, in the case of Brotherhood, ambition). So don’t be fooled by the American media’s marginalization of sharp, funny films that aren’t in our native tongue. Director Alfonso Cuarón’s homecoming effortafter an extended Hollywood stint distinguished by the captivating A Little Princessis accessible, populist and, yes, smartentertainment of the highest order.
From the outset, Tenoch and Julio’s excellent adventure seems cosmically blessed. But wish fulfillment is merely the setup. Cuarón’s narrative is more concerned with unintended side effects and unforeseen consequences. As the unlikely trio travel from the urban bustle of Mexico City to a rural landscape ominously dotted with roadside memorials and armed checkpoints, the film segues, naturalistically and almost imperceptibly, from adolescent fantasy to realist psychodrama.
Mamá owes much of its dexterous narrative balancebreezy yet well-grounded, knowing yet never stridentto Verdú’s unassuming, nuanced performance. The script presents her with a near impossible challenge: to be fantasy babe and surrogate mom, all while nursing a lifetime of secret wounds. Yet Verdú navigates Luisa’s internal struggles with ease and grace. One moment she is playful and flirtatious, the next bruised and distant. For the film’s first hour, the actress manipulates her easy, confident physicality like a skilled sexual matador, keeping the frisking pups on edge while maintaining a benevolent air of expectancy.
Yet the film’s emotional stakes continue to mount. The threesome’s good-natured road trip quickly devolves into a torrent of recriminations, jealousies and past offenses. The bad vibes only abate when the paradisiacal destination proves a geographical reality. Basking in a languorous seaside haven, Mamá develops into a more adult, more resigned fairy tale. As the regenerative spell inevitably fades, the trio’s final moments of discovery are less combative, more informedand tellingly, more lasting.
In a bittersweet coda, Tenoch and Julio meet again a year later, awkward strangers separated by the very real bounds of class, opportunity and unspoken shared experiencethe too familiar pains of growing up. Ultimately, Cuarón’s revealed truths may not be particularly profound: youthful friendships tend to splinter and fade over time, competitive machismo often conceals real resentment, surging hormonal drives sometimes unloose latent homoerotic urges. But like the taunt of the movie’s title, they can nonetheless leave unexpectedly lasting scars. So can the movie.
Looks like he was a great Artist.......who left his Legacy behind for others to follow.....
Indianapolis (CA-35), not Indiana.
There were plenty of jumps and screams at the severed-head reveal at the Sunday night…
I just...this recap...why did I not know these were here until now?! 4 times on…
So long Don. Your creative energy and encouragement were inspirational to me.