The smash road comedy from the Oscar-winning director Alfonso Cuarón is that rare movie to combine raunchy subject matter and emotional warmth. Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna shot to international stardom as a pair of horny Mexico City teenagers from different classes who, after their girlfriends jet off to Italy for the summer, are bewitched by a gorgeous older Spanish woman (Maribel Verdú) they meet at a wedding. When she agrees to accompany them on a trip to a faraway beach, the three form an increasingly intense and sensual alliance that ultimately strips them both physically and emotionally bare. Shot with elegance and dexterity by the great Emmanuel Lubezki, Y tu mamá también is a funny and moving look at human desire.
Many dialogue driven movies often get a bad rap for being cinematically stale. After all, there are only so many ways that a filmmaker can make a conversation between characters visually interesting. But with 'Y tu mamá también,' director Alfonso Cuaron and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki manage to organically blend script and form so seamlessly, that the characters' words and the camera's movements almost become one. A sexually charged coming-of-age road flick, the film features an unashamedly honest depiction of teenage desire, frustration, and confusion -- all caught under a faintly voyeuristic lens that refuses to cut away.
Tenoch and Julio (Diego Luna & Gael García Bernal) are two best friends living in Mexico City. When their girlfriends leave for a European vacation, the hormonal teenagers grow listless. That is, until they meet an older, beautiful Spanish woman named Luisa (Maribel Verdú). The trio eventually decide to embark on a road trip to the beach, and along the way they gradually bond while their relationship begins to shift, taking on new sexual and emotional turns. But as confessions are made and boundaries are shattered, friendships are put to the test, creating a lasting impact that will change the group forever.
Completely eschewing Hollywood's often romanticized and nostalgic view of adolescent passion, Cuaron immediately establishes an unapologetically frank and crude depiction of teenage lust. This fairly explicit portrayal of sex carries on throughout the entire runtime, and while the raunchy content might not be for everyone, these scenes rarely come across as gratuitous. Instead, they always serve the story and characters. Likewise, the script's dialogue is equally natural and blunt, creating an effortless air of authenticity marked by a juvenile sense of humor and surprisingly thoughtful insights.
To this end, much of the film is simply made up of conversations between Tenoch, Julio, and Luisa as they travel along their road trip and get to know each other more -- both personally and, uh, in the biblical sense. This leads to some joyfully amusing flirtations and dramatic revelations, tackling themes of desire, betrayal, friendship, identity, love, and growth. Throughout it all, Diego Luna, Gael García Bernal, and Maribel Verdú forge a palpable sense of on-screen chemistry, fully selling their increasingly unconventional bond. Luna and Bernal make for a convincing pair of horny teens, and they both add an extra layer of honest vulnerability and youthful confusion to their roles. Meanwhile, Verdú is absolutely enthralling here, perfectly breathing life into the boys' alluring object of desire. Of course, the character is much more than a mere source of sexual longing, and the actress creates a multifaceted woman struggling with hidden pain. Together, the trio strip themselves bare (literally and figuratively), bringing the script's informal dialogue and complex erotic material to the screen with an effortless level of realism.
Delicately aiding the film's story and performances, is Cuaron's naturalistic but still artistically deliberate visual style. Marked by wide masters, long takes, and reframing camera angles, the film's aesthetic has a freewheeling, almost objective quality, offering an intimate and unobtrusive peek into the characters' private moments. Like a nearly invisible guiding hand, the camera organically fixates on the characters and action, letting events naturally unfold by extending shots as long as they can go while only cutting when functionally necessary. For instance, one scene starts off with Luisa in her apartment as she leaves to meet the boys downstairs -- but instead of cutting to a new shot once she greets them, the camera simply reframes to the window when she gets to the car, allowing us to see all that we need to see in one unbroken sequence. The film is full of instances like this, leading to a technically impressive display of sustained handheld camera work that never draws attention away from the narrative. On the contrary, it only enhances it, bringing rich cinematic form to the runtime's numerous conversations and sexual escapades.
And while these stylistic choices are usually quite subtle, the movie is home to a few more overt flourishes as well, drawing heavy inspiration from the French New Wave (particularly the works of Godard and Truffaut). Perhaps most striking of all, is a sequence that involves Luisa selecting a song on a juke box. As she turns around and begins to seductively make her way back to the boys, she suddenly looks straight into the lens. For a moment she dances directly with the camera. For a moment… she dances with us. It's an arresting visual choice that only works to increase the level of intimacy between the characters and audience, and thankfully Cuaron elects to employ techniques like this in moderation. Also of special note, is the movie's use of voice over narration. Periodically the sound mix will abruptly cut out and an anonymous narrator will fill us in on the protagonists' backgrounds, private thoughts, and future lives, providing an extra window into the plot and characters.
Coming-of-age stories don't always end with a welcomed epiphany, and people aren't always ready to embrace the changes and emotions they've endured. In fact, sometimes they hide from them and they run from them, and they try to ignore them. But the ripples of their experiences linger regardless, informing the rest of their lives. With 'Y tu mamá también,' Alfonso Cuaron taps into these concepts, weaving a refreshingly honest tale about developing identities fueled by youthful sexuality, companionship, and love -- one that remains raw, humorous, sensual, crude, and above all, utterly human.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Criterion brings 'Y tu mamá también' to Blu-ray in a dual format release that includes a BD-50 disc and two DVDs (which contain all of the same content as the Blu-ray). The discs come housed in a foldout case packaged inside a cardboard slipcase with spine number 723. A thick booklet with an essay by critic Charles Taylor and comprehensive character biographies written by Alfonso Cuaron and Carlos Cuaron is also included.
The movie is provided with a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Sourced from a new 4K scan and led by Emmanuel Lubezki's impressive cinematography, this is an exceptional video presentation.
The source print is in nearly pristine shape and features a light layer of natural grain, offering a pleasing filmic quality. With that said, there are a few instances where the grain can look just a tad digitized and noisy (particularly in skies). Overall clarity is wonderful, revealing a great sense of fine texture and depth in the numerous wide shots and extended takes. The color palette is slightly stylized and mostly adheres to a green/yellow tinge. Likewise, some indoor scenes appear a hair dim. As the film progresses, however, outdoor scenes focused on the Mexican countryside carry a brighter and more vivid quality, and the third act beach scenes offer more pop. There is perhaps a hint of ringing in a few shots, but any major artifacts are thankfully absent.
'Y tu mamá también' features a rich and naturalistic aesthetic, and this transfer from Criterion faithfully respects the film's absorbing style.
The film is presented with a Spanish DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix and optional English subtitles. Subtle but spacious, this is a delicately designed and layered mix.
Speech is clean and clear throughout with no balance issues. The movie's frequent voice over narration also comes through well, but there is a faintly thin and rustling quality to the recording that is not present in the rest of the dialogue. The soundscape is gentle but enveloping, spreading natural ambiance around the room with smooth imaging. Atmospheric effects like background traffic, chirping birds, and flowing waves feature natural dispersion, and isolated sounds like spraying sprinklers and reverberating glasses come through with distinct fidelity. Voices are directionally placed when appropriate as well, and pans between speakers are seamless. Music, which comes from on-screen sources like radios and juke boxes, also adds a lot to the experience, giving the mix another layer of naturalistic texture.
Artistically designed and technically proficient, this is a very strong audio track, adding an understated but immersive sense of ambiance and character to the mix.
Criterion has provided a solid assortment of supplements, including several interviews with the cast & crew, behind-the-scenes footage, and even an additional short film. All of the special features are presented in upscaled 1080i with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio and English subtitles for the foreign language portions (unless noted otherwise).
'Y tu mamá también' is a funny and insightful cinematic road trip through the joyful delights and perils of teenage sexuality and burgeoning emotional depth. Led by realistic dialogue and organic camera work, the film's script, acting, and visual style seamlessly blend together to create a work of rare honesty -- warts and all. The video transfer and audio mix are both exceptional, highlighting the movie's subtle but immersive style. Supplements are also informative, offering lots of insights from the filmmakers. This is another great release from Criterion. Highly recommended.