“Oh, but isn’t Alfonso Cuarón amazing?” I hear people say all the time when discussing film. True, his work on Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) brought new depth and darkness to the series, mirroring the metamorphosis of the teenage protagonists from spotty kids to not-quite-so-spotty teenagers. But that’s not what they mean. Oh no. Almost everyone means Y Tu Mamá También (2001), the film that made his name, the film that broke Mexican box office records, the film that’s in every true movie lover’s top ten. They bang on about this and that, how deep the meaning is and on just how many fucking levels they get it. OK, I thought, it’s probably time to watch this as I have just spotted it in the bargain bin and it’ll make an interesting review for our movie blog. So I watched it. My God, what a load of crap it is.
“But, but..” I hear people say ‘It’s <insert adjective here>”, “it changed my life”. Fine – if you like it, great. Me? I reckon it’s too much a case of the Emperor’s New Mexico. Very few people who are interested in film would openly express the opinion that it’s less than perfect but here at Picturenose, we live on the edge. To begin, the story. Essentially a road movie, the plot revolves around three main characters; two teenage boys, Tenoch and Julio (Diego Luna and Gael García Bernal) and the older woman, Luisa (Maribel Verdú). the two teenage boys are just doing teenage boy stuff, knocking around in the home city, smoking dope, drinking, being bored and wishing for brighter days. Tenoch is the son of a local politician who has good connexions with the president of Mexico himself, whereas Julio is from a regular, middle-class type family. The wife of Tenoch’s cousin, Luisa, finds out her husband is cheating on her and is looking for distraction. they all get into a car and take a road trip to a beach, the name of which the boys have made up in order to lure Luisa away.
Well, blow me if you can’t guess what happens? Actually, that could easily be a line from the film. If this film were to be cut for US television, it would run at around 12 minutes. Every other scene there’s someone putting something into someone else, in various guises, positions and combinations. Boy, does it ever get dull. It’d be no spoiler to let on that the boys end up playing ‘hide the sausage’ with Luisa at the drop of a thong. The sheer volume of sex is totally off-putting and jars horribly with what I feel urged to point out is some visually stunning camera and some genuinely funny japes. “What’s wrong with attractive people having sex” I hear the plaintive cry from the guy in the raincoat at the back. Nothing at all. Imagine, though, you could watch Tom & Jerry for a whole week – but only one cartoon over and over. You know that bit where Tom gets hit with a giant salami? That’d soon lose its edge.
At this point, you may wonder if I found any good in it. I did. Aside from the aforementioned glorious camera work, the story is actually quite touching. Many things are revealed (no, stop it) and the whole thing comes to a satisfying conclusion. There are several cut scenes that appear to mean nothing but which, in fact, add a good deal of texture to the piece as a whole, so I can give credit where it’s due there. The soundtrack is lively and apt and the lighting – provided by the sun and Mexico itself – is beautiful.
And yes, I get it about being about sexual awakening, the politics of the Mexican class system and all that old malarkey. I really do. However, padding out what is essentially a short story with loads of rather gratuitous – if well-lit – sex does not a masterpiece make. Boring, for the most part.
106 mins. In Spanish.