Tuesday, October 07, 2008

There is no greater honor than being a Charolastra.

"Y Tu Mamá También" is not only a magnificent sample of superb filmmaking, it is also a radiography of Latin American society.

I first saw this film when I was in high school. Everybody talked about the uninhibited sexuality of the characters and the graphic scenes where it was displayed. Plus, Gael García Bernal starred. There are three men Latin American girls grow up worshipping: her father, Jesus and Gael. While trying to shake off my Catholic upbringing and oversexed by clandestine yet candid conversations about sex with my girlfriends I instantly knew this film was for me.

It was so much more than what I'd expected. People talked about it as the "Mexican version of American Pie." That's downright insulting. It's heresy. This film is more earnest, real, raw, painful and beautiful than any other I've ever seen. It's one of those movies that teach you something new every time you see them and that seem to grow with you. In high school it told me one thing: sex can be used as a weapon. In college it spoke to me about social differences. Having grown up in an upper-class family with a good last name, I'd only encountered equals during my private education. That changed in college. I found that I was a minority. We see this happening to Tenoch (a fantastic Diego Luna), who happens to be best friends with Julio (Bernal, in what I believe is one of his finest performances), a kid from a middle-class family. While driving across Mexico, we clearly yet subtly observe Tenoch realizing he's extremely privileged but he remains mum about the issue. There's something changing inside of him, but it just might be too scary to admit it out loud.

Throughout the road trip, Tenoch is a foreigner in his own country. Julio stops to make small talk with the locals; he feels like one of them. Tenoch is always looking to be in charge, perhaps because that's the only reality he knows. He's a winner. He can have sex with his girlfriend in his own home, and find a new one after only two months of being single. Julio has to be sneaky in order to get laid and it takes him 9 months to get a new girlfriend. Julio is submissive and collaborates when Tenoch wants to hear every single detail about his BFF's night with his girlfriend, yet when he's asked to do the same for Julio he does so reluctantly and with his eyes elsewhere. He won't kneel for forgiveness until Julio reminds him he did the same for him. When they're in the boat with Chuy the fisherman, he wants to drive, while Julio plays with Chuy's daughter.

In spite of all their differences, Tenoch and Julio act like they're the same. They have the same friends, the same interests, but along the way we learn their backgrounds weight on them. When challenged, Tenoch doesn't hesitate about reminding Julio he's socially inferior to him, and Julio nonchalantly admits he enjoys the perks that come with being Tenoch's friend. They both share the unquenchable desire to dominate through sex. They ask Luisa who's better at it, their unfaithful girlfriends aren't people so much as they're property. They think they're experienced in the ways of life because they've done drugs and consumed alcohol and have had intercourse in different positions; they even have a manifesto. But they're kids. They're confused. They're so incredibly alone, and until they really grow up by the end of the film, all they have is each other.

Luisa, the Spanish woman married to Tenoch’s cousin, is aware of this. She’s up to her last weeks on this earth, and she’s not in the mood to fuck around. She wants to be free, and maybe pass on a lesson or two to her two avid young friends. After learning of her husband’s affairs with other women, she doesn’t think about it twice before accepting Tenoch and Julio’s offer to go to the beach. She listens to what the kids have to say, allowing them to brag about things they've done. She treats them like adults and listens to them with awe, and it thrills the two boys to be taken so seriously by the object of their desire. But she has a limit. Her no-more-bullshit rule drives her to control the two teenagers; knowing they're willing to do anything she says. By the end of the journey, and having taught them a few lessons (albeit Tenoch and Julio are not entirely aware of it), Luisa is finally free. She dies being whom she always wanted to be, in a foreign country and in her own terms.

The words flow between the three main characters, and it looks so natural you'd almost think the entire film was ad-libbed. The acting is superb, the light and look are beautiful, and the voice over narration adds to the narration and doesn't stall it. "Y tu mamá también" is a film where I can find no flaws. Perhaps I'm biased because it's one of the few Latin American films that doesn't take any sides, and both the poor and rich are complex and suffer through their own battles.

What can I say? This flick kicks ass, buey.

3 comments:

Dylan Jones said...

Cool blog. I remember renting this movie back in High School. I had read about this foreign film that was supposed to be really good and I was pretty excited. I loved it and it was one of those first films that kind of opened a door so to speak to better, more serious movies that than ones I had been going to before. Also it's my favorite Gael Garcia film after the Science of Sleep.

Alon said...

I just saw this movie for the first time about 2 months ago after being a fan of just about everything else Cuarón has done, and I really enjoyed it.

The final scene is perfect to me.

Also, Cuarón's treatment of issues of class is fascinating...as is your description of your upbringing.

I don't know if it's perfect, but it's damn close.

natália said...

'There are three men Latin American girls grow up worshipping: her father, Jesus and Gael.'

So true.

But I love Diego too, he's so cute. I met him once and he was so adorable, despite my stalker behavior and the fact I spoke a little too fast in a foreign language (Portuguese), but still he looked into my eyes and seemed to pay attention and (try to or at least pretend to) understand what I was saying to him.


Great review, by the way. It made me wanna watch the movie again. I honestly remember not liking it very much, but I was 14-15 when I watched it, so maybe I should revisit it now I'm bit older and a bit more mature (I hope).