June 10, 2023 at 4:07 am

Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001)

Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001)
Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Writers: Alfonso CuarónCarlos Cuarón
Stars: Maribel Verdú, Gael García Bernal, Daniel Giménez Cacho


“Y Tu Mama Tambien throws propriety to the wind. A young Latina woman not only bolts from her role as dutiful wife but takes a swipe at patriarchy as she initiates two young men into a realization of masculinity far beyond macho.”

Well you might ask. What happens when a young, married Latina woman steps away from the yoke of traditional female forbearance of a cheating husband to joyride with two rowdy adolescent males celebrating their last summer of freedom before going off to college? And what accounts for her choice?

As the threesome drive out of Mexico City into the countryside toward a faraway beach, a bricklayer knocked off his bike by an automobile delays traffic. It will be three days before anyone identifies the corpse. It will be three days before we know who Luisa is.

And the true identities of Tenoch and Julio (the suavely naïve Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal), two young men who run into their cousin’s young but older wife, Luisa (a lithe swift talking Maribel Verdu), at a wedding will also not be known for several days. Luisa, driving with determination but without intention to an unknown destination, will accidentally initiate them into sexual complexities they could have lived a lifetime without knowing – and will, no doubt, take a lifetime to unravel.

Tenoch and Julio are best friends. Tenoch comes from a wealthy family of privilege while Julio hopes his brains will give him a ticket to better things. They essentially ignore being from different sides of the track, swearing a blood brother friendship — charlostras. They have a manifesto of loyalty to one another. Julio and Tenoch take pride in their quickie sex lives with steady high school girlfriends who have gone off to Europe for the summer. They compete with each other in masturbating contests in broad daylight on parallel diving boards and share grandiose fantasies of sexual conquests. While attending a wedding together, they get the bright idea of hustling the lovely Luisa, their cousin’s wife who is a few years older. They invite her to take a ride with them to the beach, enticing her with descriptions of a hidden cove called Boca del Cielo that only they know about. They are, of course, making the whole thing up. They have no idea where a hidden cove at an isolated beach might be. At first she just laughs them off. But then, seemingly devastated by a phone call from her husband admitting that he’s having an affair, Luisa calls Julio and says yes, she’ll go. Taken off guard by what they view as a stroke of unexpected good luck, they scramble quickly to borrow a car and figure out what direction to go. Luisa dumps stuff in a bag and they’re off.

On the way, midst much jocular conversation, Luisa again surprises them. She seduces Tenoch. Then, when Julio becomes jealous, she has sex with him as well — casually, in a matter of fact manner, in the back of the car while Tenoch is driving. She exposes how easily each can be seduced, foregoing any pact they’ve made with each other. This completely turns the tables from fun to fury, bringing out the fierce but suppressed side of the competition between them. Luisa asks, point blank, wasn’t this what they both wanted? Wasn’t she just making a fantasy come true? Perhaps. But, her willingness to fulfill the fantasy guts the game between them and, for the first time, they face reality. Confessions flow. Tenoch has slept with Julio’s girlfriend and vice versa – more than once. Whatever fabric of control they created between them is gone. Their ‘charlostra’ contract looks silly; they’ve broken every rule. Now, without the restraint of a pact, their relationship really heats up. Emotions run strong. They physically fight and verbally attack one another. Luisa decides it’s time for her to make some rules and, if they want her to stay with them on the trip, she’ll be the boss.

As the threesome move closer to the beach, illusion and reality begin to merge. They enter another world when their car breaks down and they are thrown on the mercy of people poorer than poor who generously help them. Luisa finds and is given a doll by an old woman that has her name on it. By a fluke, at the end of a road picked more by desperation than decision, they wake up to a curve of sand by the sea beyond their wildest fantasy. Held quiet by beauty without agenda, they’re very far outside the familiar. And the guys are following Luisa’s rules, requiring them to shut up and do what she says. She’s established a different kind of order where truth reigns and secret cravings emerge. Somewhere along the line, Tenoch and Julio realize that things are turning out a lot different than they imagined. Then, an odd little man shows up in a boat, taking them to a restaurant he runs with his wife under a tent where they eat, dance, get drunk and let their emotions run free into the night.

Luisa begins to make love to Tenoch and Julio simultaneously. And then, stepping away from them as mysteriously as she stepped away from her husband, she leaves them. Caught in the heat of passion, Julio and Tenoch continue having sex with each other, finally venting the pent up attraction they’ve felt for one another that’s been submerged beneath a heavy legacy of egoistic competition between men. The next morning Luisa says goodbye to boys who have become men. Tenoch and Julio are left with a reality that has no words. What Luisa has released in them is more startling than revelations about their desire for sex with the same woman, transforming their beliefs about male identity. She pulls back a veil of truth, showing their notions of heterosexuality to be as flimsy as their pact.

On this trip to fantasy land, Luisa blossoms into a woman she could not have known as the good wife. She breaks away from a programmed passivity and deference, awakening two young men to a world of feelings for one another they didn’t know existed and would’ve never known if they had not crossed her path. In a moment of celebration, they may all drink ‘to the clitoris’ but Luisa’s daring comes from another source. She’s close to a destiny that goes beyond the destiny of her sex.

Remember Y Tu’s metaphor — the accidental collision with death as its end where the true identity of the corpse will not to be known until sometime in the future? Y Tu Mama Tambien taps into the ancient Greek myth of Apollo and Daphne showing what happens to men who insist on possessing the essence of female sexuality. They find themselves in an embrace with their own true nature. Tenoch and Julio return to ordinary life, having lost not only their innocence but their illusions of control. Luisa stays behind – as she says, ‘like the surf on the sea’ — on a pristine beach about to be taken over by developers.

On a trip half real and half fantasy, Tenoch, Julio and Luisa make their way through the Mexican countryside to the beach, encountering extreme poverty, military domination and social uncertainty. They see their culture undergoing change, losing an innocence of isolation that may, indeed, require a different kind of man in roles of leadership, married to its women and fathering its children. But will Tenoch and Julio integrate Luisa’s lesson of men loving men — or will tradition be too strong?

None of them will meet again. Well, technically, that’s not true. We see Tenoch and Julio say a last goodbye in a diner where we learn of Luisa’s fate – one she knew all along while we waited in the dark for a few hours to discover who she was.

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