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Overall Rating
4.36

Awesome62.81%
Worth A Look: 21.49%
Average: 8.26%
Pretty Bad: 3.31%
Total Crap: 4.13%

6 reviews, 85 user ratings


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Y Tu Mama Tambien
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by Collin Souter

"Cuaron's second masterpiece"
5 stars

Just what is it about Francois Truffaut’s “Jules and Jim” that makes directors want to pay homage to it so often? Is it the male bonding aspect of it that still resonates? Is it the simultaneous discovery between the two main characters of the greater possibilities of love and sex? Perhaps it’s the woman who comes between them. Or maybe, today, it exists as a bizarre exploration of sexual mores that come from a different time and place. Whatever the case, there have been three films in the past few months that have recognized it and even copied some of its style: “Vanilla Sky,” “Amelie” and now Alfonso Cuaron’s “Y Tu Mama Tambien,” the second great male bonding road movie this year (along with “Last Orders”).

I would normally discount the greatness of this movie for the mere fact that the story seems so familiar. Yet, the familiarity never occurred to me as I watched it. The movie feels vital and fresh, new and exciting, daring and honest. I loved being in every moment and sharing time with each and every character. Here is a rare, RARE movie that bypasses the Familiarity Rule, simply because it found a new way in. Sometimes, you don’t have to be completely original to achieve greatness. You simply have to be great.

Director Alfonso Cuaron has already achieved greatness with one movie: The 1995 remake of “A Little Princess,” which may be the best family film of the 1990’s. His second film, an update of “Great Expectations,” starring Ethan Hawke and Gwenyth Paltrow, didn’t quite gel as well, but Cuaron made probably the best movie he could with what he had. Now, he has his own script, which he co-wrote with his brother Carlos, and has left the studios to make a movie in Mexico. It feels as though it came from a new, young first time director, which makes Cuaron an even more interesting talent.

Gone are the deep greens, the subtle camera nuances and the score by Patrick Doyle. Cuaron has made a low-budget movie with local flavor, stedi-cam shots and Mexican pop music. His movie deals with sex in an explicit manner and not the way the Hollywood studios would feel comfortable depicting it. Hollywood would not make this movie. They wouldn’t know how to, except to cast Freddie Prinze Jr, Matthew Lillard and Tara Reid in the lead roles. “Y Tu Mama Tambien,” which translates into “And Your Mama, Too” opens with two people having sex while promising their hearts to one another. The sex looks real, the promises sound real, and with just this opening, Cuaron has wiped his slate clean.

But back to the “Jules and Jim” thing, because there clearly exists an influence here. “Y Tu Mama” tells the story of Julio and Tenoch (Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna, respectively), two upper-middle class guys in their late teens who have been friends for a long time. They get high together, reluctantly go to college and talk openly about their sexual fantasies and encounters. They both have girlfriends, but they have gone on a vacation to Italy, leaving the boys by themselves. They have promised to their girlfriends to keep the faith, and they seem like good boyfriends and not players, but, still, we know better.

One day at a wedding, they meet Luica (Maribel Verdu), a woman 10 years older than them. They flirt with her, much to the annoyance of her pompous husband, and tell her of this great, unknown beach called Heaven’s Mouth. They invite her to go there with them, but of course she turns them down, but not without a smile. Later, we learn that Luica’s husband has cheated on her. As a reaction, she calls Julio and Tenoch and decides to take them up on their offer. From there, the film takes on the life of a road movie with the actual road itself as a central character.

Lucia gets the boys to talk about their secrets, what it means to be a male and their favorite sexual positions. As they drive, they see the other side of Mexico, the impoverished side. Drug busts, penniless merchants, blockades and shantytowns become speed bumps in their quest (A quest because these two guys don’t really know if this beach really exists). The car keeps going as does the intimate conversations, which are often funny and alarming. The guys have an 8-rule code of ethics through which they live, and we can be certain that sooner or later some of those rules will be broken, if they haven’t been already.

By this time, we’re pretty certain that these characters, in one way or another, will have sex. Cuaron doesn’t so much concentrate on the sex and its consequences as he does on the simple pleasures of life that can cause one to forgive and forget. A swim in a beautiful body of water, the eccentricities of local inhabitants, a soccer game and, of course, a few drinks cause these characters to try and forgive one another for their flaws, their guilty actions and, most of all, the secrets they’ve been hiding. One scene in particular reveals so much about these characters, that with every secret revealed, we feel as though their world will soon crumble again with every sentence. And we’d hate to see that happen.

As Truffaut did with “Jules and Jim” and Juenet did with “Amelie,” Cuaron employs a stoic narrator to counteract the emotional aspect of the film. Every once in a while, the film goes silent and the narrator tells us a character’s back story, a thought or a piece of Mexico’s history. One of the movie’s best moments comes when the narrator tells us of the horrors these characters would have seen had they driven down this particular stretch of road five years ago. Is this important? Oddly enough, yes.

“Y Tu Mama” has been given a strange theatrical life. It has bypassed the art-house-only fate and gone straight to both the art houses and the suburbs. Perhaps one reason is that the movie has been given that bizarre “No-MPAA-rating-but-only-people-over-18-are-allowed” rating, which of course leads me to wonder why the MPAA bothers having an NC-17 rating in the first place. With this rating, how did “Y Tu Mama” wind up with such a wide release while “Requiem For A Dream,” which had the same rating, stayed in the art houses? I’m guessing because this movie would be easier for people to digest and because there’s lots of sex, which would bring in a lot of raincoats.

While I’m delighted to see that this movie stands a good chance of being discovered, I’m saddened that it might be for the wrong reasons. This movie should have its R rating. Is a semen joke really all that controversial nowadays? Is the sight of masturbation, even at a distance, all that alarming? Haven’t we grown used to casual conversations about sex from listening to the radio and watching MTV? I’m certain people who walk out of this movie won’t remember it for its sex scenes, but for its characters and the startling developments between them. Teenagers, especially, need to see this film.

All politics aside, “Y Tu Mama Tambien” is a great film that really shouldn’t be that great. The brave and talented cast gives this movie vibrancy and joy, an aching heart and a sinful beauty. Cuaron has carved a nice niche for himself as a faithful and visionary adaptor of great works. “Y Tu Mama” may be his own script, but the “Jules and Jim” influence can’t be denied. No matter. Alfonso Cuaron represents the best kind of filmmaker: A unique and gifted stylist truly in love with the substance, be it Truffaut’s or his own. What’s not to love?

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=5792&reviewer=233
originally posted: 04/08/02 03:49:13
[printer] printer-friendly format  
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Brisbane Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Brisbane Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

10/05/18 morris campbell not bad kind of sad 4 stars
3/24/14 PAUL SHORTT GIDDY, RAUNCHY AND PROVOCATIVE 3 stars
6/01/10 User Name Like American Pie- except more intelligent. And Spanish.. 4 stars
5/09/07 Nic what can i say other than- offering a dream like exsistance with super sexy stars 5 stars
8/02/06 Agent Sands Comfy, atmospheric, incredibly sexual slice of life. 5 stars
11/23/05 Jin Smut. I can get this with any trashy american film 1 stars
7/20/05 Chris Its the smarter Mexican version of American Pie 5 stars
12/08/04 Selene I love it 5 stars
10/28/04 Daveman Alfonso Cuaron proves himself to be one of the greatest contemporary directors. 5 stars
8/22/04 tatum Touching, sad, and sexy as hell 5 stars
8/06/04 Maureen Loved it. 5 stars
5/27/04 DM Smart, funny and frank, but the leads pissed me off at times 4 stars
5/07/04 Ross slow story line, almost to the point of boring. 2 stars
2/04/04 glenn george menor one of the best.. very rare.. very true.. 5 stars
12/15/03 asdf 1234 5 stars
12/02/03 matt okay not that great! 3 stars
11/20/03 HorrorScribbler Hypnotic. The final revelation pulls everything together. 4 stars
11/12/03 kimberley h. This movie offers a lot to the viewers, more than that meets the eye. 5 stars
9/28/03 Harry Clearly one of the best crossover roadtrip movies made. 5 stars
8/13/03 lm excellent... 5 stars
8/06/03 Lorenz Esguerra Amazing movie! So engaging! 4 stars
5/21/03 mr. Pink One of the best movies of 2002. A passionate, moving, hilarious, sexy classic in the making 5 stars
5/16/03 Piz Slow starting out but an overall winner 4 stars
3/25/03 Maegs I loved this movie... 5 stars
2/26/03 y2mckay Triangle man, Triangle man, said it better than I can 5 stars
2/04/03 Drunk Love Y tu mama tambien, eh Triangle Man? 4 stars
1/09/03 Goofy Maxwell "We can do a little sumthin' sumthin", but can we still B friends? 4 stars
1/06/03 Jade Ramirez Years' Best! 5 stars
1/04/03 Vikki This was well, well worth the view!!!!!! 5 stars
1/01/03 Andy Todes if you rate this less than 4 stars it's a travesty. what was the last film YOU made? 5 stars
12/28/02 Stevo Funny, fast, sexy, moving, everything; great movie 5 stars
12/08/02 Phil M. Aficionado Almost awesome. Earthy, gritty, kooky, and entertaining. 4 or 5? See it and decide. 4 stars
12/02/02 Ange Cook an amazing film that should be seen by all; unstoppable 5 stars
11/29/02 Gaiia excellent!!! 5 stars
11/06/02 brentley Excellent movie, from start to finish. 5 stars
11/02/02 beatriz a nice quest for self-knowledge......i would'nt mind going on a trip with those two.. 5 stars
10/27/02 Diana What I would give,to spend one night with Tenoch and Julio 5 stars
10/24/02 jamierich If you want a male bonding flick, see Jules and Jim, not this pale copy. 1 stars
10/24/02 Catstepper Sadly inevitable ending 5 stars
10/22/02 oscar this is just reality, the best I've seen. muy bueno 5 stars
10/12/02 kron awesome....they should premeir it in the usa 5 stars
10/09/02 mirko lujan amores perros (love's a bitch) is a great film too... 3 stars
10/04/02 Joaquin Santiago Great movie! Also worth watching is "Amores Perros" 5 stars
9/23/02 yavanna very hot and sexy 5 stars
9/04/02 wintermute pretty dull, wish they had tacked some interesting characters into it. 2 stars
8/22/02 Pierce Lanson VERY sexy,VERY open, VERY revealing (of onesself), VERY excellent 5 stars
6/08/02 ownerofdajoint what a great fucking movie!it'll stay with you/take your thoughts down some different roads 5 stars
5/29/02 Allenda A waste of money despite some cute guys getting naked. 1 stars
5/29/02 brentley Excellent movie! Stunning visuals, emotional acting & an all-around great story. 5 stars
5/29/02 simon templar gorgeous people great story 5 stars
5/27/02 marmlstein fab 5 stars
5/26/02 Bonnie I wanna see it again! 5 stars
5/26/02 john c. smith wow 5 stars
5/25/02 Bulaklak Very funny and realistic. 4 stars
5/24/02 jessica One of the best movies I've seen. Five stars. 5 stars
5/23/02 Jamie It was good 5 stars
5/22/02 Dave K Excellent movie. Loved the hotties!! 5 stars
5/22/02 Carol Like Mexico, it's beautiful, sad and rejoices in life 5 stars
5/20/02 Ben Wilson a fresh, raw, real movie that leaves you thinking 5 stars
5/20/02 Erica it was so great 5 stars
5/19/02 lex Great film. beautiful, heartbreaking, irreverent...!!!Fabulous. 5 stars
5/19/02 Louis Mexican Porn, straight and simple 2 stars
5/17/02 Carlos Jaramillo This movie is great on many levels 5 stars
5/16/02 natasha about what you lose and gain in the process of growing up 5 stars
5/14/02 Karen (GoodAsDed@aol.com) can't wait for the DVD 5 stars
5/14/02 mslemon unbelievable...not just a sex movie...so much more 5 stars
5/13/02 Nick2k good movie. but not excellent. i think sex (like mullholland dr) gave it 100% with critics. 4 stars
5/13/02 me oh man, this movie has so many awesome levels to it, its insane! 5 stars
5/12/02 westchamp unbelievably good - about life, what you miss, what you pass by 5 stars
5/12/02 carlos Like watching real life unfold on the screen which films should be all about. 5 stars
5/10/02 Ella A nice glimpse of upper class Mexican life...good character building. 4 stars
5/10/02 cwsox one of the most amazing films ever; the script reveals more each time I see it 5 stars
5/10/02 Gordo great movie with a surprising twist at the end 5 stars
4/30/02 Rob uplifting rites of passage 5 stars
4/29/02 Ralph Deeds Quite a good movie but not as good as Amores Perros or American Beauty. 4 stars
4/29/02 Todd Plummer A great litmus test for a new romance -- if you're secure in your own sexuality. 5 stars
4/29/02 mark goode fantastic movie - even better with your girlfriend 5 stars
4/29/02 melania the movie misses 1 stars
4/10/02 C_nemo the peakover is a very neat touch since it doen't just say what is going on right now 5 stars
4/09/02 KoHawk siggy 1 stars
4/09/02 wintermute I agree, more nudity was necessary for that 5th star. 3 stars
3/30/02 System of a Down Movie needed more nudity 2 stars
3/28/02 Goose Road movie+Alfonso Cuaron+good writing+social insight into modern-day Mexico= Bad ass movie 5 stars
3/23/02 Heather Very funny, explicit, sexy movie about two young men and their road trip with an older woma 5 stars
3/21/02 Otis Buckshot This is a wonderful movie about relationships, sex, and being young 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  29-Mar-2002 (R)

UK
  N/A

Australia
  22-Aug-2002 (R)




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