If you had ever wondered where foreign filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón came from, after being at the helm of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, then making what may have been the most truly cinematically evolved film of 2013, Gravity, you don’t have to look much further. Those are the blockbuster highlights, but the films that truly show where he came from — where his true talents lie, are his Spanish films — the one I speak about being Y Tu Mamá También.
The story that unwinds is that of friends Tenoch Iturbide, played by Diego Luna, and Julio Zapata, portrayed by Gael García Bernal, whose teen girlfriends leave for Italy over one long, hot Mexican summer. As the film opens, we’re treated to what is one of my personal favorite scenes to be on celluloid, ever. Tenoch asks his girlfriend, Ana (Ana López Mercado), to not sleep with any of the Italian men she’d encounter on her trip while making love. They tease one another with bittersweet banter in bed in front of a wonderful Harold and Maude poster (I wonder if Alfonso Cuarón deliberately placed that there), all while humping like the teenagers they are. This one very sexual, very intimate moment is one most films aspire to capture. They both seem young and naïve as they promise one another not to cheat on the other with Brazilians, Argentinians or gringos. It’s beautiful and you, as the viewer want, for a split moment, what he has: youth and seeming stability. All uncomplicated.
Fortunately (or unfortunately), things get a little more complex. Tenoch and Julio meet the tall and beautiful Spaniard Luisa Cortés (Maribel Verdú) at a posh wedding even the president had attended. She was, to them, unattainable and by chance happens to be the wife of Jano, Tenoch’s cousin. They find her attractive and, like all boys would, lie about an upcoming trip to a secluded beach somewhere in Mexico they were never truly planning to have in hopes of a sexual encounter. She doesn’t seem too interested, but after an odd confession over the phone from Jano about a recent affair, she accepts their invitation.
The cinematography proves wonderful. I knew Mexico was beautiful (aside from poor), but who knew it was that beautiful? This is, by all means, a road trip movie. A large sum spent in a car during its dialogue heavy moments, even the compositions gathering information from the fleeting vehicle on the broken Mexican roads, accompanied by the unsettling and saccharine dry mountains as the sun reflects on the rear of the hatchback all do the same thing: mesmerize. Emmanuel Lubezki captures it all on a single frame while Alfonso Cuarón illustrates what has to be one of the most raw and bitter coming-of-age film ever made.
For some, this strikes a nerve deep in their system. It all leads up to that moment in the final act where nobody is nervous to explore their burning, inner desire, the scene that defines exactly what the film is all about and that’s something you have to find out for yourself. Value your friendships even more and every single moment. People will surely walk in and out of your life. People you know will die and love will always end. Art only reinforces that we are all only human.