Filmbusu Treeview is a weekly collaboration between Tembusu Treehouse and Tembusu College’s Filmbusu, where Treehouse writers give their take on Filmbusu’s pick of the week.
Film: Y Tu Mama Tambien (And Your Mother Too)
Director: Alfonso Cuaron
Producer: Alfonso Cuaron, Jorge Vergara
Screenwriter: Carlos and Alfonso Cuaron
Cast: Maribel Verdu (Luisa), Gael Garcia Bernal (Julio), Diego Luna (Tenoch)
Y Tu Mama Tambien (And Your Mother Too) is a foreign language film directed and co-written by Mexican film virtuoso, Alfonso Cuaron (he co-wrote the screenplay with his brother Carlos). The film was a critical success and earned Alfonso and Carlos Cuaron an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay in 2002. Although the film did not win, Alfonso Cuaron would continue to be a powerhouse in the film industry, most notably winning Best Director for Gravity in 2014.
The film, as clichéd as it seems, is a coming-of-age story, one that follows two Mexican teenagers on the cusp of their youthful fervour, who, on a whim, set off on a spontaneous road trip with a woman in her late twenties to a beach called Heaven’s Mouth. While traipsing across Mexico, their road trip is one that is filled with revelations, betrayals and sexual discoveries, while simultaneously running a gamut of emotions along boyish tantrums, awkward unspoken tensions, and eventual deliverance.
The film strings together a series of vignettes punctuated by an omniscient narrator who hollows out the soundtrack to give us context of the characters as well the places they travel through. These vignettes are impregnated with purpose, and feed into each other, forming an interconnecting web of significance that would be otherwise unapparent.
The plot of the film develops on three levels. On the surface, it is a lighthearted lark buoyed by the adolescent libido of two teenagers, Tenoch and Julio. Tenoch is a wealthy politician’s son whereas Julio hails from a middle-class single-parent background, two different economic backgrounds. The two of them go on a spontaneous road trip after baiting an attractive woman (Luisa) whom they met at a wedding to follow them to a far-flung beach. Along the way, sexual discoveries are made and stories of infidelity unfurl, revealing a sexist and immature double standard when it comes to sex. Luisa teases out of the boys their puerile approach to sex, and teaches them it is more than merely about short-lived orgasms. What sets this film apart from other coming of age films is its audacious and realistic portrayal of sex. The camera does not pan away coyly or cut off their bodies for the sake of mass public consumption. Rather, its portrayal of sex is so shockingly familiar and crudely frank that censorship-age viewers might even feel uncomfortable. Yet, the film is more than just a story of two teenagers’ sexual transgressions, although it does serve, as its main narrative arc.
The film does not exist within a vacuum and provides allusions to a parallel world that continues its course as the protagonists are on the road. On a second level, the film is dotted with references to Mexico’s social, economic and political climate. We come to this understanding through visual cues and narrative explanations. While driving along the dusty roads past ramshackle villages, the protagonists drive past police checkpoints and armed guards debussing a vehicle to approach people on the dirt-caked side roads. The film also shows Julio and Tenoch cutting through throngs of protestors in search of Julio’s sister. The omniscient narrator also alludes to the left-behind side of Mexico – the town where Tenoch’s nanny was born (which he never visited) and a fishing village that will soon be developed into a tourist spot. All these events seem short, transitory and even negligible, but they all serve as important portents to the political transition that Mexico was about to embark on – the end of the 71-year government rule by the ruling party.
Lastly, the film comes to an uncomfortable though liberating closure. At the end of the trip, the relationships between the three protagonists have become irreversibly altered. “Life is like the surf, so give yourself away like the sea”, this was a maxim imparted by Luisa to the two boys in one of the closing scenes. This pithy statement, coupled with another revelation, puts her actions and motivations into perspective – be it the reason she was so sexually free or the real reason she agreed to follow them on the road trip.
Y Tu Mama Tambien is a triumph insofar as it paints a realistic portrait of Mexico – its lens stay focused on the development of its protagonists without completely crowding out their social-political peripheries. The film inhabits a world of dissonant ideas, a world in which an indulgent rich kid befriends a middle class boy, a world in which the protagonists seem impervious to the socio-political transitions which are a dynamic force in the film’s trajectory, and finally, a world in which sex both makes and breaks relationships. At the end of the trip, both Tenoch and Julio seem matured and settled, ready to embark on their university life. And as the narrator informs us, “they will never meet again.”
Who should watch:
The film is recommended for open-minded individuals who aren’t easily squeamish. We recommend this as an Art film that explores mature themes such as actualization and sex.
We rate this:
About the Author
Lionel is a political science major who is deeply fascinated with the Middle East and the role of religion in politics. He is unabashedly feminist, passionate about migration issues and also very interested in all types of art forms. In his free time, he likes to read, write, take long walks while listening to hip hop music, and to hang out with the people he loves.
Rating system design by Goh Yong Wee