Friday, June 14, 2002
Y Tu Mama Tambien
It is perhaps fitting that this
year of the World Cup – when people around the world play "soccer" (or
what we in America call "football") – foreigners have decided to
challenge America on its own turf: movies. Already, the French have
contributed the awesome one-two punch of
Brotherhood of the Wolf and
the two greatest presents we have received from them since the Statue of
Liberty and Tintin. Now Mexico follows with Y Tu Mama Tambien
("And Your Mother Too"), a magnificent drama-comedy-political-porn
extravaganza that put the "coming" in "coming of age" story.
It's sort of weird. A couple of years ago, when I
reviewed the brilliant teen comedy
I pointed out that the only way that it could be improved would be if
they had added some narration about current American social conditions
and some more explicit sex scenes. Actually, I had planned to argue
that, but at the time I made a mistake and thought I was reviewing the
of Shaft, so maybe this point didn't come through.
But Alfonso Cuaron, the writer-director of Y Tu Mama
Tambien, acts as if the message came through loud and clear, even
adding some delightful surprises of his own. The movie's two main
characters, Julio and Tenoch, are eighteen-year-olds played by famous
former child stars Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna, sort of like
Mexican versions of Corey Haim and Corey Feldman. Tenoch (Haim) is the
son of a top politician and Julio (Feldman) is his working-class friend.
They spend most of their time talking to each other while masturbating.
All of this changes when they decide to take a long
drive down to the beach with a beautiful 28-year-old woman determined to
put their masturbating days to an end. By having sex with both of them
repeatedly and on a variety of intoxicants, Luisa (Maribel Verdu), this
older woman, teaches them a valuable lesson: that even the most
degrading 90-second sexual encounter can have consequences.
If this movie is accurate about Mexico, this is a lesson
that the entire country needs to learn. This film bravely contains more
sex, violence, and drugs than even my wildest fantasies about the
country have. Oral sex, discussions of the clitoris, homoerotic
subtexts, marijuana, Ecstasy, alcohol, promiscuity, etc. This movie
takes it all in, and doesn't flinch. It's like the evil monster
characters in Hellraiser had designed a whole country, and then
decided to name it. To name it Mexico.
But Cuaron has more on his mind than hard-core sex and
drugs. Between the zany antics of Feldman and Haim, and their best sex
scenes since the director's edition of The Lost Boys (banned in
all countries except Denmark and Japan), Cuaron has also made this a
stirring political epic with rich character development. How does he do
With the magic of narration. You know, a lot of American
movies operate from the assumption that because they are "motion
pictures," they should mainly show you things instead of patiently read
them to you. Some Like It Hot and Air Force One both come
to mind. But Y Tu Mama Tambien knows that you can really make
things a lot deeper if a narrator pops up every once in a while to tell
you about what is going on in the characters' heads, what they're really
like, and also what the rest of Mexico is like, was like, and will be
like. Actually, it's not so much "every once in a while" as it is
"pretty much all of the time." In fact, the narrator followed me home
that night and explained my various actions, like that although I
started playing a Duke Nukem 3D online tournament, I normally
prefer to play Doom. And you know, he was right!!!
Let me give you an idea of how this added to the film.
As you know, I have nothing bad to say about
and a lot of good to say. But imagine how much deeper it could have been
if a narrator had followed the scene when Tom Green is attacked by the
snake by saying, "The snake would later be returned to the pet shop,
which was owned by a young woman who had earlier had oral sex with the
President of the United States." Think about how much that would have
added to the movie. Or if in one of the porno films that Y Tu Mama
Tambien usually resembles, a narrator said that "the actress in this
scene worries that some day she will be demoted to 'fluffer,' and then
again to 'associate fluffer.'" You get the idea. See how that changes
things? Instead of feeling only shame and self-hatred after enjoying
that scene, you might have a different view of America.
All of this is in the service of the best, most
important political message you'll see in any movie this year: that the
U.S.A. needs tighter border controls with Mexico. Cuaron has done our
nation a great service by showing us the kind of depravity taking place
just beyond our border. He is a great American.
In fact, the film's original slogan in Mexico, "El
narrador que no se callara," translates, I think, to something like "a
movie that will change your life." It certainly changed mine.
Next spring, predict that Y Tu Mama Tambien will
win Best Foreign Picture, as will its mother. On a scale of cuatro
estrellas o cinco estrellas, I give Y Tu Mama Tambien cinco
Earlier positive movie reviews can be found at