Y Tu Mamá También

Movie Information

Y Tu Mamá También is part of a series of Classic Cinema From Around the World being presented at 8 p.m. Friday, June 22, at Courtyard Gallery, 9 Walnut St. in downtown Asheville (enter at Walnut next to Scully's or at 13 Carolina Lane). Info: 273-3332.
Genre: Drama
Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Starring: Gael García Bernal, Diego Luna, Maribel Verdú, Nathan Grinberg, Verónica Langer
Rated: NR

I’m assuming that most people have had a chance by now to see Alfonso Cuarón’s Y Tu Mamá También, and that the plot and the events of the film are known to most. However, if you have not seen this brilliant work, you may not want to read further, because I’m here dealing with the film in ways that may give away too much to the uninitiated.

Shortly after I reviewed Y Tu Mamá También on its original release in 2001, a reader—a very proper-looking, immaculately dressed lady—came up to me and said, “I wanted to ask you about your review for Y Tu Mamá También.” Well, considering the content of this overtly sexual film, my immediate sense was that I was about to be accused of recommending pornography (it wouldn’t have been the first time, nor the last). To my surprise, what she wanted to know was my take on why the two main characters—Julio (Gael García Bernal) and Tenoch (Diego Luna)—couldn’t stand being in each other’s company by the end of the film. I explained that my understanding of the film was that the pair had crossed a line of intimacy with each other that they were not prepared to deal with, and that rather than do so, they walked away from their friendship. She pondered this for a second and concluded, “It must be a guy thing.” And, all in all, I think she was right—especially in a society that’s based on very specific gender roles. It was with this in mind that I revisited Alfonso Cuarón’s film for purposes of this screening, and it still seems to me that this is what is at the bottom of the film’s theme.

There is, of course, a good deal more to the movie than this one aspect, touching as it does on the Mexican class structure. In truth, it’s impossible not to realize that the fact that the boys are from very different socio-economic backgrounds also figures into the ultimate dissolution of their friendship. But so much of what happens on their literal and figurative journey is grounded in their sexual camaraderie that this part of the film feels like the overriding concern. The film carefully lays this out starting with the famous diving board masturbation scene, and then progresses with the delineation of adolescent sexuality where it’s less the sex itself than it is talking about it—bragging about it, embellishing it—with a friend after the fact.

The film’s theme is very clearly presented, and while it’s a mystery (deliberate or not) to Julio and Tenoch, it’s also abundantly obvious that it’s no mystery at all to Luisa (Maribel Verdú), the older woman both of them are sexually attracted to. In one sense, yes, Luisa (who harbors a secret of her own) is initiating the pair into the realm of sex on something other than purely adolescent terms, but in another sense, she plays a different role. She provides the pair with a kind of subverted intimacy by allowing them to “share” the same woman, and then takes it one step further—the step that undoes their friendship. I’m always surprised when I read comments from people who are stunned and shocked by this further step. Watch the film again, and you’ll see that this is the point toward which Cuarón has been leading the film all along. It’s not a surprise; it’s inevitable—as is its “guy thing” aftermath.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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19 thoughts on “Y Tu Mamá También

  1. Ken Hanke

    You know, it doesn’t occur to me for even a moment that he doesn’t actually think that.

  2. It didn’t occur to me that you might not give this movie a overwhelmingly positive review. I can look at the trailer or the poster for most movies and tell whether you like them or not.

    Have you seen Three Amigos? It’s amazing. There is a chicken in every scene and the bad guy gets a sweater for his birthday while fretting about turning 40.

    Last time I checked Y Tu Mamá También has none of those things, and instead has a bunch of people talking about sex in hotel rooms. You can find that on Cinemax anytime you want it.

    In closing, Three Amigos is a wonderful film.

  3. No, but it had a huge sewing orgy when the people of Santo Poco defended their village against the villainous El Guapo by using their skills.

  4. Ken Hanke

    It would seem Mr. Bugg cannot differentiate between sex and sewing. This could account for much.

  5. I know the difference between sex and sewing. My wife cries after one, while after the other she shows me where she put the button on the shirt and I go about watching television.

  6. Your taste is irrelevant, after all you preferred Y Tu Mama Tambien to Three Amigos.

    Isn’t there an advanced screening of Die Hard 4 you should be checking out?

    If there is, can you take me?

  7. AliciaMartinez

    In my humble opinion, this movie is great becuase it catches so much of the Experience of Being a Mexican, but the subtilties of friendship, family and social circles.
    Seldom do I get to see the Mexico I grew up, and this ws it.
    As a further comment I want to add that I love Black Jack for the same reason in Nacho Libre. Jck embodies so much of a typical country mexican man. The movie has gret locations and justs seems very “pure”. With not much Hollywood nonsense

  8. Wait a minute, are you saying that Nacho Libre (and Jack Black) embody the spirit of the typical Mexican man? This is the most hilarious post in the history of MountainX.com and it should be quoted in every post from here on out.

  9. J-Bugg's Mama

    Mr. Hanke is right. Y Tu Mama Tambien is brilliant. J-Bugg is kind-of right: 3 Amigos is hilarious, if you turn off the sound and play the Steve Martin album “Comedy Is Not Pretty” in the background whenever someone talks. Otherwise, J-Bugg himself qualifies as inherently more amusing. Every word is the intellectual equivalent of Chevy Chase falling off the Christmas Tree, of Marin Short making strange faces in a fat suit, of the riotous turn Stave Martin would have had, if he’d ended up questioning Hoke about that can of salmon in Driving Mrs. Daisy, instead of Dan Aykroyd. Keep it up, J-Bugg. Hanke is Rockefeller, and you’re Attica.

  10. mtndow

    Differentiate between sex and sewing…. Someone is bound to get stuck.
    Does Marc have a copy of The Three Amigos at the store?

  11. Ken Hanke

    The man has a copy of THE LAST UNICORN, fer godsake, so my guess is he has THE THREE AMIGOS. For that matter, he may have the William Higgins’ version, THREE REALLY GOOD AMIGOS. (Few people will get that joke, fewer still are likely to admit they do.)

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