Screens » Screens Etc.

LIFE IS A BEACH IN MEXICO

by

It is early summer, and best friends Julio (Bernal) and Tenoch (Luna) seem to be living out an adolescent fantasy. When their girlfriends departed for a stay in Europe, drugs and videos appeared to be their only antidotes to boredom. However, at a sumptuous formal party attended by the president of Mexico and his thuggish entourage, the two 17-year-olds play at coming on to Luisa (Verdu), the sexy 28-year-old wife of Tenoch's cousin. Fortified by alcohol and youthful bravado, they improvise an invitation to accompany them to a remote, idyllic beach they call Boca del Cielo — Heaven's Mouth. The beach and the excursion are just a figment of the boys' lurid imaginations, until Luisa phones Tenoch a few days later. Reeling from the revelation of her husband's infidelity, she astounds Tenoch by announcing she is eager to depart with them that day for Boca del Cielo.

Y Tu Mamá También offers a Mexican twist to the ancient Chinese adage: Beware of what you want; you might end up getting it. During the course of their journey through rural Mexico, Julio and Tenoch certainly get laid, but they also get to learn fundamental lessons about self, love, and death. The viewer gets an uncommon road movie, set far south of Route 66, in a Mexico not often seen on screen. Luisa was born in Madrid, and when she lifts a bottle of cerveza in toast to Mexico, she proclaims: "It breathes with life." After Hollywood success making A Little Princess and Great Expectations, director Alfonso Cuaron captures some of the sweet and reeking breath of his lively native Mexico.

At first, Y Tu Mamá También threatens to be just another giddy comedy about horny teenage potheads who grow pensive only when comparing penises. When Luisa calls her companions "animals," it seems like a slur on canines. Calling themselves charolastras (astral cowboys), Julio and Tenoch bond over an imaginary, profane chivalric code they have devised. They are especially observant of one of its precepts — relentless masturbation. The trip with Luisa teaches them wiser ways to use their heads. In a rolling ménage á trois, Julio, Tenoch, and Luisa arrive at the borders of selfish pleasure. The film's sexual encounters are graphic and unsettling, and they scarcely seem like simulation. The road to Boca del Cielo is unexpectedly bumpy. "Wasn't that your plan?" Luisa asks a pouting, jealous Tenoch. "To take me away and screw me?" Cuaron's plan for the viewer is not apparent until his film's final accounting, when Julio, alone in a coffee shop, calls for the check.

Glimpses of beggars, peasants, and soldiers provide a reality check on the privileged lives of the three main characters. Raised by an Indian nanny, Tenoch lives with his socially prominent family in a sumptuous villa outside Mexico City. The time is just before the electoral defeat of the PRI, whose corruption has enriched Tenoch's economist father. These are plutocrats who travel freely to Europe, Canada, and the United States, and not by squirming through sewage tunnels, fording rivers, or crawling under barbed wire. Though Julio lives with his mother, a secretary, and his sister, a left-wing activist, in more modest circumstances, he inhabits a different Mexico from the one into which he and Tenoch venture on their journey to Boca del Cielo. A narrative voice, reminiscent of François Truffaut's, occasionally interrupts to inform us that a migrant farmworker is killed by a bus and a fisherman's hut is displaced by a luxury hotel just beyond notice of the self-absorbed travelers.

It would be a mistake to judge Luisa, who is quicker to give her favors than her secrets away, too hastily or harshly. "Life is like the surf," she advises, "so give yourself away." But the lesson of Cuaron's movie is: Beware of searching for the perfect surf; even for those it does not drown, it leaves a bitter, salty taste.

For your information
Y Tu Mamá También
"Heaven's Mouth has sharp teeth"
Dir. Alfonso Cuarón; writ. Carlos; feat. Maribel Verdú, Gael García Bernal, Diego Luna, Juan Carlos Remolina Suarez, Andres Almeida Garcia Morales, Silverio Palacios Montes (no MPAA rating)

comment