I have found myself quite aware of Alfonso Cuaron as a director, perhaps most accidentally from an early morning viewing of moments from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, yet this was ages ago and I certainly did not know the directors of films, or really watch a whole lot of films for that matter. Of course, he is probably most well-known on a global scale for his directing of the dystopic masterpiece Children of Men, a film that as I find myself revisiting it quite often, can say with some sincerity that it is standing the test of time. Film critics hail Cuaron's offering to the Potter franchise as its best, and it is rather difficult to find people who outright dislike Children of Men, yet as I go on about both of these films, it is Y Tu Mamá También, Cuarons' breakthrough film that proves to be his most well-received and generally loved film. I am almost certain that I have never heard a bad word spoken in relation to this film, in fact, when people do discuss the film it is with an unprecedented fondness and genuine adoration for the film, noting its innovative use of the camera to capture a story with layers and complexities, one of which is class struggles on a national level. Others seem to be caught up in Cuaron's clever breaking of the narrative structure by dropping the sound out in order for the narrator to interject explanations that, often times, undermine everything the characters are discussing, much in the same vein as Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon. As bold a cinematic statement as one can imagine, Y Tu Mamá También starts off with a pace and vision all its own and never once seems to stop and allow the viewer to adjust to its unusual execution. Sure the narrative's trajectory can be pinpointed rather quickly and it is not the most redemptive or uplifting of films ever realized, but to call Y Tu Mamá También anything short of visionary is to clearly be disconnected from the film on a problematic level. As the person I viewed the film with suggested, it is certainly the On The Road of Mexican film, but somehow it manages to obtain a degree of hope, amidst a Kerouac style malaise and misogynist ethos. The men of this film are their own much more redemptive versions of Sal and Dean, coming down from their spirit quest in real and tangible ways, much to the woe of those afforded the pleasure to watch this magnificent piece of cinema.
Y Tu Mamá También places its focus on the unusually intimate relationship of two high school pals the first being Julio (Gael-Garcia Bernal) whose family has ties to leftist political movements and has always been of a slightly lower class and Tenoch (Diego Luna) the son of a high-ranking political officer. While the two boys' friendship is rooted in school they also have the shared benefit of maturing together, particularly in their respective sexual awakenings. This element of sexuality, aside from constant pot-smoking seems to be the major connection the two share, making for a rather unusual moment when, at a cousin of Tenoch's wedding, the two fall for an older Spanish woman named Luisa (Maribel Verdú) whose self-involved and condescending husband becomes a point of mocking for the two. Foolishly attempting to win over Luisa the two suggest that she travel with them to a secret beach locale, which they fictitiously title "Heaven's Mouth," although Luisa is quick to discredit their invite considering her age and their foolishness. However, when Luisa realizes that her husband has been cheating on her, she takes the boys up on their offer and travels with them to Heaven's Mouth. It is during this trip that Julio and Tenoch's relationship is question, both for its frantic sexual nature, as well as their respective lies about sleeping with one another's girlfriends. The tension is only heightened when Tenoch actually has sex with Luisa during their stay in a village after their car breaks down. This jealousy fuels Julio to discredit Tenoch's sexual prowess, however, when Luisa gladly has sex with Julio the dynamics change, and the tension arises between the two young men, leading to a tequila-fueled threesome between the travelling companions, upon arrival to a beach that by pure coincidence is known to the locals as Heaven's Mouth. This awkward sexual encounter proves to be the breaking point and Julio and Tenoch return home while Luisa stays and decides to explore the coves of the area. The closing scene of the film shows Julio and Tenoch engaging in a meeting for coffee, where their forced distance and awkwardness manifests itself fully, and as the narration suggests this cup of coffee would prove to be their final encounter.
I mention the tensions of sexuality in this film, it was a factor I was made aware of well before ever seeing the film, however, to be told about this did not prepare me for the way in which it would erupt off the screen. I have talked before about the homosocial bond in film and have certainly focused on gay cinema at least once, however, the world in which Y Tu Mamá También exists manages to bring the social issues of this sexual identity to its absolute boiling point. In contrast to the equally excellent Pedro Almodovar, Alfonso Cuaron relies on the reality of moments, as opposed to a simulacrum of reality that is highly stylized to deal with the issues of repressed homosexual desires bursting at the seems. Tenoch and Julio are clearly infatuated with one another and their respective sexualities, both physically and mentally, we are shown images of them starring at one another's penis for extended amounts of times, considering the attractiveness of each of their male organs. Similarly, they engage in competitive masturbation, for a lack of better, words laying parallel to one another as they outwardly express their sexual fantasies, even being so in synch as to seemingly reach orgasm simultaneously. It is not until they are forced to acknowledge one another existing in a heterosexual state that things become problematic, something Luisa call to their attention when she says that they are no longer allowed to have sex with her, but are more than welcome to do so with one another. One could also consider their confessions of sleeping with their respective girlfriends as a way of affirming their own desire to engage in intercourse with one another even if in the most indirect of manners. This makes the eventual three way sexual encounter problematic, because it has a layer of their repressed homosexuality emerging, but Luisa must tragically work as a sacrificial in-between to assure its consummation. Whatever the result then becomes, it is certain that it greatly damage the relationship between Tenoch and Julio. Perhaps they are indeed straight and their desires were misguided, or the existence of Luisa only betrayed their ability to unleash their repressed desires, it is impossible to say because Cuaron purposefully leaves it vague, and it seems to be the ideal choice, because after all is not sexuality the most malleable and indecisive of things.
Key Scene: Leaves, pools and sexual awakenings. If you have seen the film you will know what I am talking about, if not, you will understand upon viewing.
This is a must own film. The dilemma, however, is that Criterion has apparently had this film in their "to be released" canon for nearly three years now. I am hoping that this is the year it happens, as such I suggest holding off a purchase and renting in the meanwhile.