Y tu mamá también

I finally saw Y tu mamá también this weekend, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. También focuses on two teenage boys–one middle class, the other upper class–who convince an older woman to travel with them to the legendary Heaven’s Mouth beach. The film is bracketed by a past tense voice-over narration that provides the film with a reflective, slightly nostalgic tone. The class distinctions–and the generic conventions of the road movie–allow director Alfonso Cuarón to address not only the sexual coming of age of the two boys but also the political landscape of Mexico.

I liked the film’s honest treatment of sex, and like Roger Ebert, I think the film underlines the impossible constraints placed on American filmmaking by the MPAA’s rating system (Kevin Sandler’s discussion of “The Incontestable ‘R’” seems relevant here–I’d also warn against renting this film from Blockbuster). Their interactions with the older Luisa allow Cuarón to explore the tensions between the two boys, and an important detail we learn near the end of the film also helps us to reinterpret many of Luisa’s decisions as she playfully teases Julio and Tenoch. I’m still torn about this discovery about Luisa. In my original viewing of the film, it felt a little forced, but I think it does motivate her actions more plausibly than the discovery of her husband’s infidelity.

The film also foregrounds class distinctions in complicated ways. We learn that Tenoch is the son of a conservative Mexican president, and one of the opening sequences of the film shows Julio and Tenoch weaving through a protest in order to borrow a car from Julio’s sister, who is protesting Tenoch’s father’s government. Later, Julio and Tenoch drive through police roadblocks and encounter the poverty of rural Mexico–illustrated in part through the run-down hotels where the group stays. When they finally arrive at the legendary Heaven’s Mouth beach–more or less by accident–we learn that it will soon be transformed into a resort, with a local fisherman and guide forced to take a job as a janitor (“He never fished again,” the narrator tells us).

In his Salon review (subscription required), Charles Taylor reports that Cuarón has commented that También is

“about two teenage boys finding their identity as adults and … also about the search for identity of a country going through its teenage years and trying to find itself as an adult nation.”

Cuarón addresses both of these concerns gracefully, especially through the background landscape that Tenoch and Julio can barely see–their energies so focused on reaching the legendary Heaven’s Mouth.

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