Y TU MAMÁ TAMBIÉN scored a 2001 coup for director Alfonso Cuarón, who also co-wrote this daringly honest cinéma vérité road movie with his brother Carlos, earning an Oscar-nomination for their screenplay to go with critical acclaim and international box-office appeal. Bawdy and sexually frank, picturesque and telling, socially incisive and funny, minutely observant and ultimately sad, it’s a brilliantly acted coming-of-age/coming-to-grips story set in the changing & changeless Mexico of 1999. Though firmly rooted in that country’s culture, the astute quick-study reflections upon entrenched class, fragile friendship, heedless lust and cosmic impermanence hold universal relevance.
On the cusp of adulthood (as in ‘college’), a pair of hard-partying compañeros talk one’s older female cousin, newly arrived from Spain, into going on an improvised jaunt to a supposedly secret beach (they’ve made it up), their raging hormones in overdrive.
‘Julio Zapata’ (Gael Garcia Bernal) is a middle-class kid from a family with leftist leanings. ‘Tenoch Iturbide’ (Diego Luna) is the son of a wealthy official, an inside friend of the President. Both are high-spirited and horny, casual drug users and giddy as goats that their girlfriends are on vacation: they’re essentially well-meaning but as blithely immature as puppies. Older, relaxed and considerably more refined,’Luisa Cortés’ (Maribel Verdú) has just learned her jerk husband has been cheating on her, plus she keeps another, more secret pain to herself.
With an omniscient narrator (voiced by Daniel Jiménez Cacho) providing dispassionate past, present and future commentary on the places and people they pass on their journey through towns and countryside, the trio find out more about life and their relative place in it than they assumed going in. As he’d later demonstrate in his marvelous instant-classic 2018 epic Roma, writer-director Cuarón is a master at delineating the essence of period and place, the seeming impermeability of economic stratification, a wide range of personalities, attitudes, customs and behaviors and in aiding his actors to craft stellar performances. Seductive and intriguing Spanish actress Maribel, 30, and rising Mexican power-players Bernal, 23, and Luna, 21 (amigos off-screen) are amazingly good, so real as the people they’re portraying that you feel like an invited voyeur.
The only complaint from this corner is about the open coarseness of the sex-talk during the penultimate party scene at the roadside restaurant: as good as the actors are, the writing here felt too excessive. Gotta love the earlier passage when the cut-your-crap Luisa furiously unloads on the two doofs and lays down her own ‘manifesto’.
With Diana Bracho, Andrés Almeida, Emilio Echevarría, Silveria Palacios. Depending on source, the production budget was either $2,000,000 or $5,000,000: worldwide grosses came to a triumphant $33,600,000. Filming was mainly in the State of Oaxaca. 106 minutes.