Y Tu Mama También
Very few films choose to provide an epilogue to the "happily ever after" world most movies exist in.
If Mike Nichols' The Graduate ends a few frames earlier, it's a triumphant story of love conquers all as Dustin Hoffman rushes in at the last minute to stop Katherine Ross from marrying someone else. Instead, the film ends with Hoffman and Ross on a bus, their faces draped in uncertainty, realizing the consequences they must now face after briefly basking in the life-altering moment they've just experienced.
Alphonso Cuaron's new film Y Tu Mama También (which translates to "And Your Mother, Too") ends with a similar post-script, and also features a variation of Ann Bancroft's sultry Mrs. Robinson in the form of Luisa (Maribel Verdu), a 28-year-old Spaniard who irrevocably changes the lives of Mexico City teens Tenoch (Diego Luna) and Julio (Gael Garcia Bernal).
Tenoch, from a well-off family with political clout, and Julio, who leads a more middle-class existence, are preparing for a summer of boredom after their girlfriends leave for a vacation in Italy. Until they meet Luisa at a family wedding.
They invent a fictional pilgrimage to a beach called Heaven's Mouth and invite her to come along, never imagining she'll accept the offer. Luisa initially declines, but when her husband confesses to having an affair she decides to hit the road with the boys, leaving behind Mexico City for the rural, south of the border byways.
As in Easy Rider, where the journey of what are essentially two drugged-out losers becomes an examination of the American landscape they cross, in addition to the adventures of its protagonists, Y Tu Mama También explores today's Mexico, with subtle layers of social commentary and classism.
Whether a fourth-generation fisherman who will lose his land to a hotel or a roadside cross that marks a traffic fatality, director Alphonso Cuaron continually stops the flow of the story as an unseen narrator provides the past and the future of random people and places along the journey.
The film's unapologetic frankness in its depiction of drug use and sexuality have led to Y Tu Mama También being released without a rating, as opposed to the X-rating it would've certainly garnered from the hypocritical Motion Picture Association of America. But, to shake our heads and pretend that 17-year-old kids aren't having sex, drinking, and experimenting with drugs is naïve at best.
Cuaron never glorifies these acts, but grounds them in a realism rarely found in American films. The sex scenes aren't glossy, but are instead full of the awkward pawing and inexperience that marks an adolescent's journey into the realm of intimacy. Their journey into manhood complete and Luisa's rejuvenation fulfilled, the film could've easily ended at this "happily ever after."
But Cuaron refuses to leave a movie this complex with an ending that simple. A few minutes of screentime later, the moment has evaporated like a dream, floating away as Julio and Tenoch now face the rest of their lives.
Existing at a point where its young characters are old enough to comprehend the consequences, but still young enough to recklessly disregard them, Y Tu Mama También is a celebration of life-defining moments. Though the joy these characters feel can't last, like the carefree bliss of youth, they remain forever in their memories.
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