Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001) / Drama

MPAA Rated: R for strong sexual content, nudity, drug use, and language (most current releases are unrated, depicting more explicit sexual content)
Running Time: 105 min.

Cast: Diego Luna, Gael Garcia Bernal, Maribel Verdu
Director: Alfonso Cuaron
Screenplay: Alfonso Cuaron, Carlos Cuaron
Review published April 8, 2003

Yet another sex-tinged road picture flick with horny teens, drugs and booze, and lots of sexual escapades, but this one has a little deeper political ramblings and serious messages regarding sexual liberation underneath.  I understand that there are heaps of critics raving over this film, but speaking personally, I find myself at a loss as to why.  As an attempt to create a more profound teen sex movie, Y Tu Mama Tambien does manage to set itself apart with great performances and moments of symbolism, but at its core, the main storyline is as tired as they come these days.  With a plotline this uninteresting, we are left to wait for inevitable sex scenes, which will either titillate, disturb, or just flat out bore you, depending on your personal tastes.

Teenage boys and lifelong best friends, Tenoch (Luna, Frida) and Julio (Bernal, Amores Perros), are bored with their lives once their girlfriends leave to Europe for the summer.  While attending a wedding, they decide to spice things up by hitting on the much older woman, Luisa (Verdu, Goya en Burdeos).  They concoct a beach paradise that no one knows about that they would like to take her to, but she douses their passions by saying her boyfriend will love going.  Of course, her boyfriend ends up cheating on her, not only freeing Luisa from commitment, but causing her to cover up her pain by engaging in a fling of her own, and so she agrees to go with the two younger boys on the road trip to paradise.  Along the way, they experience many ups and downs, while scenes of Mexico's poverty-stricken towns surround them.

While there is no doubt an attempt to correlate Mexican politics into the mix, points are brought up but never driven home.  As such, they only serve as momentary distractions for what director Cuaron (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Great Expectations) really wants to shoot, i.e. some spicy sex and emotional angst.  Cuaron does manage to direct in fine fashion, and his cast of actors are excellent.  They are so realistic, in fact, the film could have been shot in documentary fashion, and would have fooled a good deal of the audience into thinking it's a true account of actual events. 

So, we have a talented director, some good players, and nice scenic locales as ingredients for which to set up the story.  Yet, the characters are nothing more than dolls, set up to have sex with one another, sometimes in alternating fashion, and sometimes all together.  Lots of infidelity is on display, as the two boys talk about how they've had relations with each others girlfriends, while Luisa is having an affair of her own on the man who also has had an affair.  Meanwhile, they are content to live for the moment, in a shallow existence of compulsive sex, with an underlying message that the path of hedonism is the road to happiness.  To Cuaron's credit, he does show the hangover of the morning after, but how much weight can we feel for people who live without consequences, without regard for the things or people they hold most dear?

Y Tu Mama Tambien is a nicely acted and directed coming-of-age road trip that does offer something more than the usual, yet is trapped by the conventions of its own genre.  To sum up, you've seen it all before story-wise, with the obligatory teen-flick conventions of farting scenes, drinking, fights, and casual sex galore.  Perhaps it's the serious tone, or maybe it's only the different locales and more graphic depictions of sex that makes you think you're actually watching something new.  As a truer depiction of sexual escapades, Mama earns my respect.  Unfortunately, it never managed to earn my interest.

Qwipster's rating:

2003 Vince Leo