World Hum Travel Movie Club: ‘Y Tu Mamá También,’ Part Two

Travel Blog  •  Eli Ellison, Eva Holland  •  04.25.08 | 10:09 AM ET

y tu mama tambienIn Alfonso Cuarón’s 2002 film Y Tu Mamá También, it’s a restless summer in Mexico City. Protestors are in the streets, and Tenoch and Julio—best friends who’ve just graduated from high school—are bored, their girlfriends overseas for the holidays. When an older woman in a failing marriage agrees to come along on a road trip in search of the perfect beach, it’s not long before the boys break one of the cardinal rules of their friendship—never sleep with another guy’s girl. Life lessons ensue. In this second installment of the World Hum Travel Movie Club, our occasional look at travel movies new and old, Eva Holland and Eli Ellison traded emails about the results. Part one appeared yesterday. Here’s part two.

From: Eli
To: Eva
Subject: No love for Luisa?

Don’t get me wrong. I think the social commentary adds an interesting layer to the film. I just don’t like the way it’s done. No, it’s not Michael Moore barking into a bullhorn. But it still felt a little over dramatic. The way the soundtrack goes silent for a few seconds before the narrator speaks, it’s as if Cuarón is saying, “You need to listen. I’m about to say something important.” Come to think of it, my only problem with the movie overall is the narration. Sure, it provides backstory. But way too often, it also reveals the characters’ motivations, so the subtleties in the acting (which is very good) are lost. Were you annoyed by the narration? Or am I alone here?

You’re not a Luisa fan, eh? Interesting. You seem to like “Y Tu Mamá,” but not the engine that drives it. I saw her as a positive character. The movie is a coming-of-age road-trip story, so Tenoch and Julio need to undergo some kind of change. Luisa is the catalyst for their self discovery. You may not like the way the lady operates, but look at the bright side. She forces them to grow up a little bit and realize the sometimes unpleasant consequences of adult sexual relationships. We’re talkin’ fun stuff like jealousy, guilt and insecurity.

I think the film’s faded look is intentional. You’re right, it works well. And when we finally reach the beach, Cuarón could’ve easily resorted to super-saturated colors to emphasize its beauty. But he stays true to the story’s mood, so even this gorgeous beach has a melancholy air about it. I don’t think Cuarón has shot selectively. The Mexico City scenes feel current, despite the absence of Big Macs and billboards. And once they hit the road through rural Mexico, yeah, that’s the real deal. I’ve never explored this particular area (from Mexico City to the Southern coast), but the ramshackle towns, military checkpoints, cattle blocking the road, gracious people—that’s the Mexico I know and love.

Alright. I’m ready for you to rip my Luisa comments to shreds.

From: Eva
To: Eli
Subject: Chalk it up to naivety

I won’t lie: I was eating up the over-dramatic narration. But hey, I’m notorious for missing the subtleties of movies—and I am always surprised by “surprise” endings. I think all the fluffy chick flicks I love so much have rotted my brain a little, so I like things spelled out for me. Same goes for Luisa. You’re right, of course—she is the engine driving the change in the boys’ lives, and that’s a necessary role. But as someone who is preprogrammed to crave a Disney-style happy ending, I don’t like watching the unpleasant consequences of that role. I’ll put it this way: I really respected this movie, for a lot of reasons, but it didn’t make me feel good.

The Mexican scenery did make me feel good, though, so I’m thrilled to hear from you that it’s mostly legit. I’ll have to add a Mexican road trip to my never-ending travel to-do list—possibly without the company of a pair of teenage pals, though.

By the time you get this, you’ll be south of the border yourself. Any final thoughts on how “Y Tu Mamá También” looks from the other side?

From: Eli
To: Eva
Subject: Tourist Swine

Subtleties escape YOU? Yesterday, watching drunken frat boys roam the beach here in Puerto Vallarta, I finally woke up to the symbolism in the scene where a pack of wild pigs invades Tenoch and Julio’s beach camp. Of course! The pigs represent the tourists that’ll someday spoil the Boca de Cielo beach.

Eva, by all means, put that Mexico road trip near the top of your list. Tomorrow, I’m renting a car and spending the next few days driving north along the Nayarit coast, where I expect to find my own Boca de Cielo. That is, if the Federales don’t get me first.

Eli Ellison

Eva Holland is co-editor of World Hum. She is a former associate editor at Up Here and Up Here Business magazines, and a contributor to Vela. She's based in Canada's Yukon territory.

8 Comments for World Hum Travel Movie Club: ‘Y Tu Mamá También,’ Part Two

Gael-Lover 04.25.08 | 7:45 PM ET

Just had to respond to this weblog that you two do a good job in calling out the travel aspects of this movie but oh boy, this movie just isn’t that good. I, too, did not like Luisa and even though I usually like unhappy endings (call me a realist), in this case I just felt plain bad for those boys and the ending of their friendship. For a GREAT movie with Gael Garcia Bernal, try Amores Perros. It’s gritty, it’s urban, it’s set in Mexico City (which provides a fascinating backdrop), and it’s dark - but it’s also very real.

Julie 04.27.08 | 11:48 PM ET

I remember really liking “Y Tu Mama,” and I wasn’t put off by any of the characters’ gender stereotyped behavior, which is peculiar. I did not, for example, enjoy “The Graduate.”
Your conversation makes me want to revisit the movie, though, to see if I can remember why it appealed to me so much. (Gael Garcia Bernal might have had a lot to do with it, actually).

Gael-Lover’s recommendation about “Amores Perros” is good; another great movie with Gael Garcia Bernal (besides “Motorcycle Diaries”) is “The Crimes of Padre Amarro.” Talk about the gritty side of Mexico.

Eli 04.28.08 | 4:42 AM ET

What is it with you ladies and Luisa? She’s that bad, eh? Maybe she is. And like the boys, I’m just blinded by…(how shall I put this?)...her bra size.

I’ll put Amores Perros and Crimes of Padre Amarro on my list. Thanks for the tips.

Julie, you don’t like The Graduate? Sure, it’s overrated. And Dustin Hoffman’s character can be off-putting, to say the least. But come on, it’s a better film than Motorcycle Diaries, which to me, seemed like pure romanticization.

Eva, back me up on this.

Eva 04.28.08 | 2:49 PM ET

Glad to see you made it back over the border, Eli. I don’t think I’m in much position to judge between The Graduate and The Motorcycle Diaries - it’s been years and years since I saw Dustin Hoffman hitting it off with Mrs. Robinson. (Although, does a refresher course courtesy of “Rumor Has It” count for anything? Maybe not.)

I’ll put those two on my list, for sure. Although, call me crazy, but in the great Gael vs. Diego debate, I choose Diego Luna every time. I smell a re-rental of Havana Nights coming on…

Eli 04.29.08 | 4:22 PM ET

On second thought, it’s not fair to compare Graduate and Motorcycle Diaries. They’re completely different movies. And perhaps I’m being too harsh on MD. I liked it ok, but did fall asleep on it twice.

Rumor Has It? Horrible movie.

And as for Dirty Dancing Havana Nights…I think you need help, Eva. 05.06.08 | 11:54 AM ET

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Eva Holland 05.18.08 | 7:49 PM ET

“And as for Dirty Dancing Havana Nights…I think you need help, Eva.”

Don’t I know it.

(By help, you mean dancing lessons courtesy of a latin kid from the wrong side of the tracks, right…?)

bkiddo87 11.03.08 | 3:49 PM ET

This is one of my favorite movies. You guys did a good job of analyzing it. I personally love Luisa’s character.

Anyone who calls it the mexican american pie obviously had not seen the movie or just doesn’t get it.

I think this is better than motorcycle diaries btw.

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