Y Tu Mamá También

Is Y Tu Mamá También (rough translation: So’s your mama) a wry and trenchant story about class, friendship, sexuality, and globalization in a rapidly changing Mexico—or is it a gussied-up piece of soft porn? Both, I think, but it’s all done so affably and naturally (the sociology, the politics, and the porn) that it comes off as a work of great charm and comedy and sadness. A gorgeous young married woman and two rambunctious teenage boys—best friends, one wealthy, one poor but aspiring—take off on a road trip to Mexico’s rural beaches. They get into fights, talk sexy, act sexy, and discover things shocking and soothing about themselves. That’s about it, and yet it’s moving, more than anyone could have predicted it might be. Part of the charm stems from the actors, all so thoroughly immersed in their characters and the settings (especially the enchantingly out-of-place Maribel Verdú). Part of it is director Alfonso Cuarón, who would later direct films as different as Children of Men and Gravity—his visual sense at once grand and intimate, his storytelling technique so casually clever, much of it inspired by the French New Wave (allusions to Truffaut’s Jules and Jim are especially clear, from the plot’s premise to the omniscient narrator who intrudes on the action now and then to tell what will happen to this or that character). The film could have been an incoherent romp; instead, Cuarón turns it into a sensual, if stylized adventure and bittersweet love story.

1014mama.box.jpgCriterion Collection’s 1080p transfer—supervised by cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki and approved by Cuarón—is superb, as we’ve come to expect. It’s not eye candy, nor is it meant to be. Cuarón and Lubezki went for an effect that’s natural, including natural lighting, without seeming like a documentary; they pulled it off, and the Blu-ray Disc conveys it. The shots of the sea feel foamy, the scenes of seduction feel hot, the earlier scenes of adolescent sex and aristocratic splendor feel, respectively, crude and cool—but the effect isn’t blatant; it seeps into your experience of the movie. The surround sound catches the ambience of wherever the scene happens to be, again without drawing attention.

My only qualm: the special features, which are as vapid as any in the Criterion catalogue. A few deleted scenes make no impression. (I just watched them and remember nothing.) However, an interview with philosopher Slavoi Žižek, about the film’s subversive themes, is very lively and interesting.

Studio: Criterion Collection, 2001
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio Format: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (Spanish with English subtitles)
Length: 106 mins.
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Starring: Maribel Verdú, Gael García Bernal, Diego Luna