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Critical Cohost Challenge May Movie Challenge

May 29: Y Tu Mamá También | Cohost Choice

Scott Tennant May 29, 2017
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By Scott Tennant | @Breakdown_Scott

​In the category of Cohost’s Choice, Max has chosen for Scott to watch Y Tu Mamá También (2001), directed by Alfonso Cuaron, written by Alfonso & Carlos Cuaron, and starring Diego Luna, Gael Garcia Bernal, and Maribel Verdu

Alfonso Cuaron is such an accomplished filmmaker, and one I enjoy for the most part. Children of Men and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban are two of my favorites, and though I did not personally enjoy Gravity, it’s a technical marvel whose many accolades speak for themselves. I was excited when Max presented Y Tu Mamá También as his cohost choice as I enjoy not only the work of Cuaron, but I am also incredibly fond of coming-of-age stories. With all that anticipation built up, what did I think of the movie?

I was… underwhelmed. I hate saying that because there are aspects of the movie that I enjoy. I love the simplicity of it; two kids, properly driven by sex as basically their only motivation, joined by a woman with a lot going on in life. It’s a road trip movie, showing off character dynamics, the challenges of friendship moving in to adulthood, and the consequences of selfishness. It’s beautifully shot as well; a very natural camera suits the simplicity of the elements of the story. Frequent Cuaron collaborator Emmanuel Lubezki brings his signature style and eye for visuals to the movie, and shows off some excellent work here too. He uses (seemingly) mostly natural light throughout the film, and Lubezki always does a good job minimizing cuts in a natural way, while letting the elements of the scene to be properly accentuated by the camera. His cinematography is just as good here early in his career as it is in his later works that receive so much more attention. Another aspect I liked was that the music was natural in the scenes for the most part; there was not much (if any, I cannot remember) background/non-diegetic music, and for many scenes the characters would be listening to the car radio or their stereo and that was the movie’s music. The acting was fine, if unspectacular. The two lead actors have good chemistry together, as does the charming Luisa, but I wasn’t wowed by the performances.
My issue was with the story overall; Julio and Tenoch come from fairly well off families, in Tenoch’s case his family appears to be incredibly wealthy, and they are growing up (seemingly around high school age). They have sex with their girlfriends, they have sex with each other’s girlfriends, then when the girlfriend’s leave town, they do everything they can to have sex with other women. It’s convincing male motivation, but it does not endear the characters to me. They both come across as spoiled, ungrateful, and I had a genuinely hard time rooting for them. The opening half hour sets up their lives, how they are both at a sort of not doing anything with their lives; they are genuinely bored and the road trip with Luisa adds some much needed anything to their lives. They compete for her affections, eventually Tenoch has sex with Luisa, and Julio sees this and gets upset. Their friendship seems to tip at this point, and from this point on the movie is much more interesting to me. The two leads in the second half of the film experience some actual conflict and must deal with their friendship together. Luisa thinks she has upset the balance of the friendship, and while she was the catalyst of change, there was dishonesty below the surface the whole time, as the boys find out they had been sleeping with each other’s girlfriends for some time, and Julio had slept with Tenoch’s mother as well (Y Tu Mamá También translates to ‘And your mother too’). They all drunkenly sleep together, then the trip ends, Luisa stays at the beach, and the boys quietly drive home, their friendship forever altered.

​The idea of the road trip story as a vehicle (ha) for the coming-of-age story is well enough, I just never became invested in the characters, and they never really grew to me. Things changed within their relationship and around each other, but Tenoch and Julio did not fundamentally change at all. In my opinion, the best coming-of-age stories are fundamentally built on character growth and this movie just didn’t deliver that for me. Stand by Me, The Breakfast Club, Moonlight, The Spectacular Now, and Good Will Hunting are all great coming-of-age stories built on characters and how they face adversity. Some of the characters do it successfully, some don’t, but all face it head on and face the things about themselves that they must change. In Good Will Hunting, Will needs to accept his clear potential, forgive his past, and grow as a man, leaving the Boston projects behind. In Moonlight, Chiron is faced with the challenge of accepting his sexuality and allowing himself to become the man he is, but he fails; he distances himself from who he truly is and hides under a façade of masculinity and bravado. Y Tu Mamá También did not have a challenge like this; that’s what makes it different from other coming-of-age stories perhaps, and many people probably resonate with that.

Overall, the technical skill in the film is unparalleled, but the story did not resonate for me, and the pacing felt uneven and almost lost me in the first half. There is a really well made movie here, that folks who enjoy the story will really love, but it’s just not my cup of tea, and that’s just fine.

Grade: B

Want to keep up with the rest of our scavenger hunt? Check out the rest of our May Movie Challenge here.

Scott (or Uncle Scootz) is a business analyst in Charlotte, NC. After graduating from Clemson University and enjoying some time in Atlanta, Scott has embraced the Queen City. He likes basketball, board games, Back to the Future, and his Baby Little Pug named Mickey. Yell at him on instagram at breakdown_scott!