Thursday, June 18, 2020

Y tu mamá también See's Alfonso Cuaron At His Most Raunchy And Most Reflective

Alfonso Cuaron's thirty years of directorial experience are interestingly varied. Like most filmmakers, Cuaron kicked off his filmography with a small independent feature. In his case, it was the 1991 movie Solo con to Pareja. Afterward, though, that's where Cuaron just goes delightfully all over the map. Cuaron proceeded to do not one but two fantasy kids movies, plus a grim apocalyptic drama, a visual-effects heavy 3D spectacle and, most recently, an intimate portrait of his own upbringing in Mexico City. Much like Steven Soderbergh or Billy Wilder, Cuaron's love for the medium of film is reflected in how he refuses to stick to just one genre. Cuaron wants to do anything and everything in an effort to explore all the possibilities this medium has to offer.

Among that varied filmography is Y tu mamá también, a 2001 movie that launched Cuaron to a whole new level of acclaim and notoriety. The genre Cuaron explores in this particular production is the road trip movie. Like many classic road trip movies, particularly those Road To films starring Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, Y tu mamá también is about two guys and a girl that comes in between them. Unlike many wacky road trip comedies, though, Y tu mamá también is a lot more in touch with reality. It's a movie with plenty of fun ribald conversations but it's also conscious of the fleeting nature of existence. No day lasts forever and friendships similarly struggle to be permanent.

The two fellas headlining Y tu mamá también are Julio (Gael Garcia Bernal) and Tenoch (Diego Luna). Both are now able to live the swinging life of a bachelor now that their girlfriends are off to Italy. This leads them to try and impress a woman named Luisa (Maribel Verdú) by offering her a trip to a nonexistent beach called Heaven's Mouth. Luisa declines the offer but reconsiders once she finds out her husband has been cheating on her. Now, the three of them are off on a road trip to a beach that doesn't actually exist. Along the way, the trio engages in explicit conversations about sex, women, life, guys, and everything in between.

Such exchanges make up the bulk of the screenplay penned by Alfonso and Carlos Cuaron. Among the myriad of pleasures in Y tu mamá también's writing, there's an authenticity to juvenility of Julio and Tenoch's dialogue related to sex and women. Too many films to count use teenage guys talking about sex as an opportunity to just deliver empty raunchy lines getting by on shock value and nothing else. By contrast, Julia and Tenoch's lines throughout Y tu mamá también, in addition to being humorous, are actually accomplishing something deeper. Their supposedly wise words about sex are a reflection of their nativity.

This dialogue epitomizing their youthful ignorances provides a perfect contrast Luisa. She's somebody whose grappling with all kinds of turmoil that come with the experiences of being an adult. An unfaithful lover, a recent overwhelming trip to the doctor, personal insecurities. The crushing weight of the world is perched onto Luisa's shoulders whereas Julia and Tenoch aren't even aware such a weight exists yet. The distinctly established dynamics between the lead characters of Y tu mamá también lends such a compelling rapport to their conversations. Alfonso and Carlos write such sharply-defined lines for each of the three leads of Y tu mamá también. It becomes an incredible amount of fun to watch the dynamics between these vividly-realized people ebb and flow throughout the runtime.

Meanwhile, the underlying melancholy nature of Y tu mamá también is reinforced through recurring pieces of glib narration that provide a glimpse into the future for certain on-screen characters. This narration always consumes the screen. All dialogue, music, and sound effects vanish as the narrator informs the viewer of what grim future awaits the character in the frame. This bold and well-realized creative choice cements the idea that the future is something you cannot avoid. You can't outrun, dodge, or otherwise evade. Much like the recurring narration throughout Y tu mamá también, the future is all-consuming. Weaving this narration into the frequently upbeat imagery seen throughout Y tu mamá también solidifies this riveting bittersweet ambiance for the whole production.

The way I'm talking about Y tu mamá también makes it sound as grim of experience as a Cormac McCarthy novel. The powerfully reflective qualities of Y tu mamá también are what stick in my mind the most after watching it. Yet, there's no denying it's also a super enjoyable romp. The humorous dialogue is always super humorous while there's an undeniably intoxicating quality to the sex scenes of Y tu mamá también, particularly when a more fluid form of sexuality goes from being subtle to over in the third act. Writer/director Alfonso Cuaron has traveled down numerous genre lanes in his time as a filmmaker, frequently to excellent results. Nearly twenty years later, though, Y tu mamá también maybe both his most satisfying and most reflective piece of filmmaking.

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