AKA: And Your Mama Too
Year Released: 2001
Distributor: The Criterion Collection
Running Time: 106 minutes
Rating/Recommended Audience: 17+
Related Films/Series: N/A
For Fans Of: Falling Angels (Canadian film), Garden State, Midaq Alley, Hecho en China, Aaltra
-The Criterion Collection DVD was used during this review. It was originally licensed by IFC Films and Good Monster during it’s initial North American distribution.
-Minor spoilers will be mentioned in this review.
-Y Tu Mama Tambien had the highest-grossing opening weekend in Mexican film history. It made $2.2 million at that time which is almost half of the budget the film used.
-This film was directed by Alfonso Cuaron who would become more famous for his work directing Children of Men, Gravity, and even Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban of all things. He’s also the first Mexican director to win an Oscar for his work on the aforementioned Gravity.
-Hey, Pan’s Labyrinth fans! Do you recognize Luisa? That’s none other than Maribel Verdu who played Mercedes in that dark fantasy film.
-Y Tu Mama Tambien was entirely shot on a handheld camera.
-This film almost got censored in its native Mexico as it got an 18+ rating, so Alfonso Cuaron and his brother Carlos sued the Mexican Directorate of Radio, Television, and Cinema (Mexico’s version of the MPAA). Even in America, it was unrated during its theatrical run to avoid similar situations.
This film came as a recommendation from a friend of mine who was into Alfonso Cuaron’s lesser-known works. This is actually the second film I’ve reviewed where Cuaron was involved, but this is the first time I reviewed something he directed. In case you’re wondering, the other film was Cronicas since he was a producer on that film while Ecuadorian filmmaker Sebastian Cordero directed it. As with many a film I’ve reviewed on Iridium Eye, I knew next to nothing except for the fact that it was a Mexican movie. I was curious how this road movie would turn out.
Y Tu Mama Tambien is a period piece that takes place in Mexico during the year 1999, just two years before the film debuted. It deals with two teenage boys named Julio Zapata and Tenoch Iturbide (pronounced Ten-otch or Teno-chay with an accent). Their respective girlfriends are taking a trip to Italy, so they decide to take a trip on their own all across Mexico. That plan comes even more into fruition as the boys attend a fancy wedding where they meet a woman in her late twenties named Luisa Cortes who’s married to Tenoch’s cousin Jano. Julio and Tenoch decide to coax Luisa into going on a road trip to a beach called Heaven’s Mouth. She agrees to come with the teenagers since she finds out her own husband was cheating on her, so the three of them drive off into rural Mexico while there are escapades of seeing random towns, getting drunk, high, and even other kinds of tomfoolery which is an understatement in itself.
Having seen some of Alfonso Cuaron’s work such as Children of Men, watching Y Tu Mama Tambien was a completely different watch. This is heavily influenced by neo-realism with the naturalistic camera work and almost no effects throughout the entire movie. It is wonderfully shot despite having a low budget, and I would’ve never guessed this was filmed on a handheld camera until I did the research for this film. Major props to Cuaron for the cinematography work, and it’s not just because I’m a sucker for neo-realism or documentary-style filmmaking in fictional stories. It didn’t feel gimmicky at all and it added to the grittiness of the movie as a whole.
The acting was quite superb and believable. It was a bit surreal since there are some big names involved. There’s Gael Garcia Bernal who played Julio. You might remember me reviewing another movie he was in called Eva Doesn’t Sleep, but he’s also been in The Motorcycle Diaries and he’s going to voice one of the characters in Pixar’s movie Coco. He did a believable job of playing this upper-middle-class teen and he really nailed that big argument scene during the second act. There’s Diego Luna who plays the rich teen Tenoch. You know him from The Book of Life, Rogue One, and for playing Katy Perry’s boyfriend in the music video for “The One that Got Away”. He really comes off as a huge spoiled brat with Julio joining in on his revelry such as acting stupid at a supermarket or sharing a joint with their buddies. Maribel Verdu did a fine job in playing the wealthy woman Luisa as she is able to portray a wide range of emotions like happiness, anger, and even an underlying sadness when she cries in recurring scenes. These actors really sold everything they did.
Y Tu Mama Tambien had some good things and I liked the visual presentation, but I found several aspects to be problematic. I thought the narrator from a sound editing perspective could’ve been better. I thought it was jarring hearing the audio instantly drop out before the narrator would start talking. It wasn’t a choice that I agreed with, but that’s the least of my concerns. This movie is not for those who shy away from explicit content. There are drugs, strong language, and sex involved in this film. Shoot, there are two sex scenes not even five minutes in the film and the first one is right there as the film starts. I can handle some graphic content and I’ve even given positive reviews to films with objectionable content, but there were times when it got too much for me. Look, I disagree with this film trying to be censored in Mexico, but there are times when the plot was too light and it gave the characters an excuse to do stupid things even though some of them get called out on it.
The biggest concern that I had was the situation with Luisa, Julio, and Tenoch. The fact that you have a married woman hanging out with teenage boys wasn’t bad enough. It went downhill during the hotel scene. Tenoch walks out of the shower and is out of shampoo, so he goes to Luisa’s room to ask for more. All he’s wearing is a towel as this scene happens. As soon as she tells him to take off the towel, it becomes painfully obvious what was going to happen next and it disgusted me. It doesn’t even help that she would eventually seduce Julio, too. I know I’ve been repeating this talking point from The Garden of Words, Somers Town, and to a certain yet different extent Seraphim Call, but this point needs to be addressed so everyone is clear. Imagine what that hotel scene would look like if a twenty-something married man tells a teenage girl to take her towel off and then do the deed afterward. Everybody would want to crucify Luisa if the genders were reversed. We can’t have double standards on this issue. Okay, she does own up to her vices and one could argue that the last thing that happens to this Spanish-Mexican character might be karmic if they were sadistic enough, but I hated how it wasn’t shown as that bad of a thing. Even though her husband Alejandro had affairs with other women, if he ever found out about what she did and he was in the room with her, he would have every right to say “At least the people I saw were legal” to her freaking face. I shouldn’t have to defend a philanderer, but she’s no better than her husband and one can argue that she’s worse if you really think about it.
Y Tu Mama Tambien was a road movie with loads of potential, but it was squandered. The production is very nice and it had a docufiction type of feel. The acting despite the questionable morality was very solid, and I’m not going to harp on everyone’s performances. The music was well chosen with an eclectic mix of Mexican artists, Frank Zappa, and Natalie Imbruglia of all people there. What really hampers my score is the unfortunate implications of the three main characters being together and the lascivious dreck that happens during their little vacation. I’m surprised I didn’t hate this movie since there were some good things like the social commentary on Mexican culture, but the protagonist-centered morality did hurt my score. I disagree with the hype and accolades Alfonso Cuaron’s film got.
-Great neo-realist film style
-Nice usage of social commentary about Mexico
-Rampant protagonist-centered morality with the main characters
-The double standards of Luisa sleeping with Julio and Tenoch
-The narrator is over-reliant on exposition
Final Score: 5/10 points
Content Warning: Y Tu Mama Tambien has a scene with a bloodied protester whose body is lying in the streets which can be disturbing and—Oh wait! That’s NOT the most objectionable thing in this movie?! Hahaha! Who am I kidding? There is a ton of strong language and dialogue as almost every swear word is spoken in Spanish. There’s even drug use with weed, drinking, and the mention of magic mushrooms and ecstasy. The biggest issue would be the sexual content with multiple sex scenes including Luisa seducing teenage boys, there’s definitely nudity involved, and Julio and Tenoch even masturbate on diving boards from a distance from the camera’s view. The B-roll footage after the fact REALLY doesn’t help.
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