Y Tu Mama Tambien (And Your Mother Too) takes on a couple of genres that Hollywood has almost entirely killed with puerile mediocrity the teen movie and the road movie and crafts a compelling and complex tale with emotional depth, believable characters, frank sexual content, and a starkly beautiful visual style. The story focuses on two cocky teenaged best friends, Tenoch (Diego Luna) and Julio (Gael Garcia Bernal of Amores Perros), during their final summer of freedom before the pressures of university and the adult world set it. They exist in their own little bubble in upper class Mexico City, spending their days smoking pot, talking about sex, jacking off, and generally being teenaged boys. When they meet the beautiful, older Luisa (Belle Époque's Maribel Verdu) at a family wedding (she's married to Tenoch's cousin), the boys fall all over each other trying to impress her and they invent a beach vacation plan just to invite her along. Stinging from a hurtful disclosure from her husband, Luisa ends up taking Tenoch and Julio up on their offer and the three set off on a road trip across Mexico in search of a mythical beach.
Complications inevitably ensue as the boys' competition for Luisa's attention turns heated and everyone's secrets begin to come out. This small story of intertwined relationships is set against the bigger backdrop of the Mexico that exists beyond the rich urban world that the characters usually inhabit. They pass by demonstrations, suspicious police activity, gorgeous vistas, rural poverty, and many more scenes both beautiful and terrifying without seeming to notice, too wrapped up in their insular lives and problems.
This film marks director Alfonso Cuaron's return to his native land after gaining minimal Hollywood success with The Little Princess and Great Expectations, and he does a fantastic job at going beyond the dusty stereotypes to paint a fascinatingly diverse portrait of present-day Mexico. Your understanding of the characters and their world is considerably augmented by a brilliant narrative device that has an outside observer's voiceover break into the film's soundscape every now and then with insight into the characters' inner lives and with random stories about places that they're passing by. The three lead actors are immensely watchable.
Diego Luna and Gael Garcia Bernal capture perfectly the outward bravado afforded to them by their age and privilege, while being able to convey the underlying reality of awkwardness, confusion and fear. Meribel Verdu's Luisa is appropriately enigmatic, hinting at a deep well of personal tragedy and pain while maintaining an exterior that is alternately bemused and frustrated by her companions' adolescent posturing. There are a lot of explicit sexual scenarios that these characters engage in throughout the film, but the actors and the filmmakers skilfully manage to inject humour and even pathos into them so it never seems excessive or exploitative. Y Tu Mama Tambien is equal parts sexy, painful, funny, raw, and beautiful, with a maturity and emotional scope that leaves any preconceptions of the typical "sexy teen road movie" in the dust.