Y Tu Mama Tambien * * * * 1/2
While watching certain movies, I enjoy discovering the small details sometimes buried or hidden beneath the immediate surface of the storytelling. These can either be directorial deliberate, a happy accident or just something that maybe I am only getting because I happen to be in the right frame of watching mind and eyes for a certain light to flip on. Sometimes they can change my entire outlook on a film.
Three-quarters into "Y Tu Mama Tambien" there is a fist-sized, stuffed toy mouse hanging from the rear-view mirror of a car. Also inside, three saddle-sore travelers are heated in tension from internal layers exposed along a stretch of emotional highway. They are nearing a destination originally conceived by two late-teen boys (Gael Garcia Bernal & Diego Luna) while coaxing a seductive woman in her late ‘20s (Maribel Verdu) to come vacation with them (among other things) on a beach paradise they made-up called “Heaven’s Mouth”. The sun is almost over the Mexican peaks and darkness, or metaphorical “Hell’s Mouth”, is enveloping inside and out of the four doors and three tattered souls of the car. The stuffed mouse at this point is shadowed in complete black from the setting sun, revealing what looks to be a heart hanging in-between the three friends. Just before this quiet moment, the friends had exhausted their emotions from an accumulative culmination of past and present things that had been bottled-up and finally exploded along the way. It's a very beautiful, brief shot of simplicity. It may be unintentional, but it serves as a very tender poignant positioning for me in Alfonso Curan's (Children of Men, Harry Potter 3) explorative road trip backdrop study on coming of age, friendship, sexuality, moral conduct and camaraderie.
“Y Tu Mama Tambien” could easily have been filed into the “Just Another Raunchy Road Trip” cabinet, had Alfonso Cuaron not paid sensitive, close attention to detail with his subjects and landscape inside and out. Despite his character’s flaws they feel real in emotional response to action and consequence and seem to wish to not only grow-up, but also grow positive in a forgiving light (or at least I feel they do) and learn from mistakes and from themselves. What Cuaron does with the landscape of the film is very interesting too as he mutes the live-action sound every so often for a narrator to elaborate the storytelling on certain scenes. These tid-bits add weight and emotion to the story and include additional character traits, political and economic settings as well as little things like a decade’s past car accident along the way. He even further explains one of my favorite scenes involving a pack of pigs that invade a campsite, with “The 23 pigs escaped from a ranch that morning and 15 would be slaughtered in the coming months.”
I instantly became a huge fan of Alfonso Cuaron’s directing over a year ago when I got goose bumps from the sheer genius of “Children Of Men”, and he doesn’t disappoint with “Y Tu Mama Tambien”. Though, I wanted to see it, I had kind of avoided it for a long time because of its well-known exhibited sexuality and an ignorant frame of mind could easily lower the film onto that level. The film certainly doesn’t shy from putting it all out there and at times can be a bit too much. If I can only have one complaint, I wish it was a little more subtle with its use of nudity as I would feel uncomfortable owning this movie and showing it to certain people. Though, it’s an important movie with or without its explicit content. Regardless, there is so much more to this movie than a study on sexual behavior. It’s beneath the little layers peeling at this certain point in the lives on this particular journey that Cuaron is really exposing to the viewer (at least to this viewer). Some of these layers involve the dangers in the immediacy of finding love through casual sex and the danger by only living for the fleeting-feeling-filling in the “moment’s” pie. And to argue, it sheds in some light that living in the “moment” can be joyful, if approached right. More than just layers of clothing are shed as all three characters realize the disastrous and potential long-term effects of breaking moral conduct and friendship through cheating, lying, stupid decisions and cruel intentions. And like the ending to most all road-trips, a bitter-sweet taste can dangle like a blackened heart from a rear-view mirror.