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Dude, Where Are Jules and Jim?

Y Tu MamÁ TambiÉn Redefines the Teen Movie

By Jed Horne


Y Tu MamÁ TambiÉn

Written and Directed by: Alfonso Cuaron

Starring: Diego Luna, Gael GarcÍa Bernal and Maribel VerdÚ

NR, contains explicit sex and language

When their girlfriends leave for a summer in Italy, Tenoch (Diego Luna) and Julio (Amorres Perros’ Gael GarcÍa Bernal), two doped-up and horny friends, convince Tenoch’s scorned cousin-in-law to accompany them on a road trip to an imaginary beach on Mexico’s Pacific coast. Along the way the three friends learn to live, laugh and love.

Okay, so maybe the plot does sound a little like Britney Spears’ new movie, even if these randy teens do more than just talk about sex. But what Y Tu MamÁ lacks in setup and loses in teeny-excess is more than compensated for by an unusual sobriety (and, arguably, a sense of humor) rarely found in American teen movies. So think Dude Where’s My Car’s latent homoeroticism done intelligently and American Pie’s cum jokes made (almost) tastefully, switch the soundtrack from Blink 182 to Flaco Jimenez, and you’ve almost got this one figured out.

But a sense of humor and emotional earnestness don’t lift a movie out of an otherwise stagnant genre. Y Tu MamÁ TambiÉn has enough aplomb to at least try for something more. One touch is the setting, wonderfully chosen and evocatively shot. I have made an almost identical road trip before, from Mexico City to Acapulco, and it’s hard to imagine a treatment more true to form or more poignant.

The other saving grace of this film is its deft reverence to its predecessors. The opening shot is of a poster for Harold and Maude, perhaps a not-so-subtle hint at the age difference between the two boys and the much older Luisa (the once beautiful Maribel VerdÚ of Belle Epoque). Truffaut’s transcendent Jules et Jim, the standard by which all subsequent cinematic love triangles must be assessed, is evoked in the narration, which often interrupts the dialogue mid-sentence and winds, AmÉlie-style, through the lives of minor characters.

And if some of the film’s political points are a bit simplistic, its wandering lens captures a circumstantial backdrop that is, perhaps intentionally, more emotionally poignant than the main threads of story. Y Tu MamÁ TambiÉn ties together characters as far removed as the President of Mexico and a poor fisherman in the anachronistic and immediate drama of twenty-first century Mexico.

The movie’s inspiration is as diverse as that of Mexico’s last contribution to world cinema, the less scatter-shot and considerably more intense Amorres Perros, which borrows pages from Kieslowski’s The Three Colors trilogy and Pulp Fiction. Both dwell on the uniquely Latin sense of fatalism, a binding thread of the lower and upper classes in Mexican society. Both attempt to encompass the breadth of human experience and emotion.

But, as flawless as Amores Perros was, Y Tu MamÁ has it beat for entertainment value hands-down. It’s that much more aggravating then, when the film’s emotional poignancy and political relevancy are occasionally dulled by a few-too-many sex jokes.