Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001)

A road trip across Mexico, oozing with eroticism and the joys and agonies of living, in what is Cuaron’s most liberating picture to date.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Dir. Alfonso Cuaron
2001 | Mexico | Drama | 106 mins | 1.85:1 | Spanish
R21 (passed clean) for strong sexual content involving teens, drug use and language

Cast: Maribel Verdu, Gael Garcia Bernal, Diego Luna
Plot: In Mexico, two teenage boys and an attractive older woman embark on a road trip and learn a thing or two about life, friendship, sex, and each other.
Awards: Won Marcello Mastroianni Award & Golden Osella for Best Screenplay (Venice). Nom. for 1 Oscar – Best Original Screenplay
International Sales: Good Machine International

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse

Review #1,193

(Reviewed on Criterion Blu-ray – first published 14 July 2015)

Spoilers: Yes

Many have regarded this as Alfonso Cuaron’s best film (to date), and it is easy to see why. Y Tu Mama Tambien is made with that rare fervour of enthusiasm and passion, so effective in its portrayal of carefree youths, that when it is juxtaposed with a more sobering reality – as Roger Ebert dubbed the ‘two Mexicos’, feelings of ambivalence and disconnect, all too familiar to us, become the mark of our human existence.

As Charles Taylor pointed out in his critical essay for The Criterion Collection – he compares Cuaron’s film to Henry Miller’s landmark 1934 novel “Tropic of Cancer”, that it is a tender ode to “the joy of living, even the joy to be found in the agony of living.”

The film, loosely structured as a road movie that also functions as a coming-of-age piece, follows two teenage boys Julio (Gael Garcia Bernal) and Tenoch (Diego Luna), who are acquainted with an older woman, Luisa (Maribel Verdu) during a wedding. They go on a car ride to find ‘Heaven’s Mouth’, a non-existent beach with breathtaking scenery. That’s all you should know.

Cuaron’s film solely relies on this minimal plotting, but through the brilliant use of narration (and revelation), Y Tu Mama Tambien transforms deeper into a genuinely emotional journey, with sharp social commentary.

“Life is like the surf, so give yourself away like the sea.”

The performances and characterizations are top-notch. These are characters you can relate to. And although the picture remains controversial for its seeming candidness (or even nonchalance) in portraying sexuality, it is the casual sex, and to some extent, the eroticism that comes from it that becomes the heartbeat of the film.

In one of its final sequences, Cuaron bombards us with explicit sexual dialogue, leading up to a tantalizing yet crucial threesome sex scene. The controversial scene is important because it is liberating to see the characters (finally) coming into their own, with nothing fazing them, and their future uncertain yet optimistic.

Their collective experience of sexual pleasure embodies Mexico’s impossible dream of ridding itself from its various agonies – poverty, injustice and corruption.

With its unhinged style, shot by the great Emmanuel Lubezki, Y Tu Mama Tambien is the work of a filmmaker who is truly free. The irony is that while art achieves liberation, Man continues to struggle towards emancipation.

Grade: A




  1. Looks like you’ve covered another movie I reviewed on Iridium Eye. Haha! Okay in all seriousness, I didn’t think Y Tu Mama Tambien was my favorite movie. The cinematography and acting are certainly high points, so don’t get me wrong. I’m not a prude, but I thought the movie went overboard with the sexual aspects and I had that realization that everyone would scream if the genders were reversed which made it more disturbing in hindsight. Looks like we’ll respectfully disagree on this one.

    Liked by 1 person


    1. No worries, that’s fine – I really enjoyed it, though it’s not my favourite Cuaron film (that could be CHILDREN OF MEN). I like its carefree indie spirit which really marked early 2000s Mexican cinema at that point. I guess it was a product of its time – a renaissance of sorts of depictions of a more liberal, explicit sexuality (though it is certainly less controversial or graphic than the New French Extremity films of the late 1990s/2000s). Your point on gender reversal is spot-on – I can’t imagine if this had been remade with the genders reversed in today’s #metoo movement!

      Liked by 1 person


      1. That’s fine. I agree that my favorite Cuaron film is Children of Men, too. The indie spirit was certainly there in that film which I did appreciate even if it went overboard with the sexuality. That’s true compared to that scene of films. I will admit that it’s kind of weird seeing Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna since both would end up in kid’s movies with Coco and The Book of Life respectively. Hahaha!

        Thank you! I’m glad you saw where I was coming from with that double standard. The #MeToo movement would’ve shut it down in a heartbeat if it were made today with the genders reversed.

        Liked by 1 person

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