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Y Tu Mama Tambien
Reviewed by Dennis Morton

On the surface, "Y Tu Mama Tambien" blends two genres: the coming of age story and the road trip. It focuses on several days in the lives of two teenage boys and a beautiful woman about ten years their senior. The three travel by car from Mexico City to a remote coastal beach. It's not an excellent adventure. There are many opportunities for personal growth, but Director Alfonso Cuaron is too good at what he does to serve them up on a platter. What doesn't happen is at least as important as what does in this intelligent movie that mangages to be as subtle as it is graphic.
 
If it were no more than a smarter variation on the coming of age flick, it might be enough. But it's much more than that. Director Cuaron takes us on a tour of a Mexico most of us have not seen in the movies. It starts in a cocoon of privilege and wealth in Mexico City. From there we travel through a more familiar countryside of poverty, patrolled by a ubiquitous police presence. Eventually our protagonists stumble, almost by chance, into the eden they set out to find. And finally, the return to another face of Mexico City, a scene that would not be out of place in any large city in the United States. Along the way, a story is told, secrets unfold, and lessons are learned or ignored. 
 
There's plenty of sex in "Y Tu Mama Tambien", but not one gratuitous moment. And it's not the kind of sex one finds in American films. Often enough it manages to be simultaneously realistic and comic. And at times it's fraught with a weight too uncomfortable for its practitioners to bear.
 
In addition to the woman and her callow charges, there is a fourth character in this movie - a detached and omniscient narrative voice. Unlike the narrative voice in most films, this voice has little to do with driving the story forward. It serves the function of placing the events we see on screen in a larger context. Without investment, it offers us information about the past and the future. It's a neat trick on the part of the director because, although it provides the viewer with an almost God like perspective, it does not diminish the lives of the protagonists. Their small ambitions, however flawed, seem even more precious in the face of an inexorable fate. Without saying so, this omniscient voice seems to suggest that time is the greatest gift we humans will ever have.
 
I've revealed almost nothing of the actual story. Two cocksure, gonad powered boys on the edge of manhood take a trip with a beautiful woman. You can imagine the surface story without my help. But look for the other story, the story of a nation emerging from adolescence, mothered by a Spanish tongue and fathered by a corporate Big Daddy from the north, the real new Mexico. That's the scary story. And Cauron tells it slyly, obliquely. 
 
Here's a small example: in preparation for their road trip, the boys ask one of their doped-out friends for directions to a secluded beach. He tells them they can't miss it because it's marked by a giant Coke bottle. When we remember that Vicente Fox, Mexico's new president, was the CEO of the Mexican division of Coca Cola, these directions to paradise become darkly comic.
 
Mexico the nation, scion of a dysfunctional family, may well be headed for even more challenging times, but if this film is in any way typical of the new Mexican cinema, movie lovers of the world are in for a treat. 
I heartily recommend "Y Tu Mama Tambien", now playing at the Nickelodeon Theatre in downtown Santa Cruz, and at brave theatres elsewhere.
 
For KUSP's Film Gang, this is Dennis Morton.
 

Copyright Dennis Morton 2002