I saw this film many years ago, and I remember it changed me. How? I’m unable to tell. But something wasn’t quite the same after the fact.
For some reason I’ve been thinking a lot about it lately. That’s how you know when art is good. When it clings to your brain cells and gets tucked away underneath the menial daily bullshit. Then one day, years later and unprovoked, it comes to the forefront of your thought and sticks around for a couple weeks.
If you haven’t seen Y Tu Mama Tambien, do yourself a favor and watch it. Then re-watch it.
On the surface, it’s a simple, beautiful, highly sexual, and sad character-driven story, but with strong undercurrents of death and politics and sociology. The heavier themes aren’t subtle and they don’t need to be. Cutting out the diegetic sound to replace it with the narrator’s voice, it’s an almost slap-in-the-face to the audience by director Cuaron, reminding us to wake up and see what’s in front of our faces.
For instance, in one scene, we’re enjoying the threesome’s drunken banter over dinner when suddenly we take a journey through the kitchen in the back, watching three generations of a working-class Mexican family labor over the lavished seaside feast the travelers are about to enjoy.
I think the chord that struck with me the most in this film was the idea of duality, in all aspects of life. How nothing is ever what it appears to be. The above scene is a good example.
But then we have our main characters. Luisa, a sexy and mature older woman who is carefree and spontaneous on the surface, is also suppressing a dark, inner battle. The boys, in typical teenage macho fashion, boast about their sexual conquests with women, but are hiding a sort of homoeroticism that’s hinted at from the beginning of the film.
And then there’s the sheer beauty of the natural Mexican landscape: the unpaved desert roads they drive on, the tucked away beaches, the small village where a fisherman and his family making a decent living off the pristine ocean.
This is in stark contrast to the other side of Mexico: the crowded, dirty city where a pedestrian is killed on a construction site, the lavished Mexican wedding filled with guests only there for political connections, and the narrator’s news that the fisherman and his family will be driven out by tourists flocking to the new oceanfront resort built on his land.
When I got to the end of the film, it blew me away. Mainly how one summer can change the rest of everyone’s lives involved, and how that ever-present duality, that hidden truth we all carry with us, never really goes away.
This film will forever be in my top five.