[Screen It]

(2002) (Diego Luna, Gael García Bernal) (Not Rated)

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Drama: Two young men accompany a married woman on a road trip to a secluded beach after she discovers that her husband has had an affair and they all learn something about themselves and each other on the way.
Tenoch Iturbide (DIEGO LUNA) and Julio Zapata (GAEL GARCÍA BERNAL) are best friends despite their familial differences. While Tenoch comes from a privileged background and famous family, Julio has not. Nevertheless, the two enjoy each other's company and imagine they're going to have some wild times now that their girlfriends, Ana Morelos (ANA LÓPEZ MERCADO) and Cecilia Huerta (MARÍA AURA), are traveling abroad.

Goofing off and spending time doing drugs with their friend Diego "Saba" Madero (ANDRÉS ALMEIDA), the two spot Luisa Cortés (MARIBEL VERDÚ) at a wedding. Married to Tenoch's cousin, Alejandro "Jano" Montes de Oca (JUAN CARLOS REMOLINA), Luisa enjoys the attention the young men pay to her and their invitation to join them in traveling to a beach, "Heaven's Mouth," that they've made up.

She has no intention of doing that until Jano drunkenly calls her one night, informing her that he's had an affair. Distraught at this news, Luisa decides she'll join Julio and Tenoch on their trip. The two are excited about this, and once they get directions from Saba about where to go, the three head off on an extended road trip.

During that, the three learn things about each other, while Luisa decides to sow her wild oats with both men. That, and several unexpected revelations lead to turmoil and dissent in the group. As they continue on their trip and eventually run into Jesús "Chuy" Carranza (SILVERIO PALACIOS) and his wife, Mabel Juárez (MAIRA SÉRBULO) and their family, the three try to sort out their relationships with each other.

OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10
Most people's lives are filled with all sorts of friendships, some that stick around forever, while others eventually tumble away or evaporate for any number of reasons. The interesting thing is not only examining what causes them to fail, but also what made them occur and work in the first place.

Those that develop due to childhood or school proximity often fail when the friends become adults and go about their ways, while those that come about later in life or are based on common interests usually stick around, although the exact opposite for both can also be true.

In "Y Tu Mamá También" ("And Your Mother Too"), the highly lauded Mexican film from director Alfonso Cuaron ("Great Expectations," "A Little Princess"), Tenoch and Julio don't seem likely friends. One is from a prominent Mexican family with important political connections, while the other is a middle class kid of no social importance.

Yet, the two sport similar ideologies and have even come up with their own manifesto with its unique set of rules by which they live. Thus, the two are slacker buddies, but their friendship is put to the test on a road trip filled with sexual matters, drugs and revelations that eventually make them reexamine their relationship in various ways.

While all of that might sound like an insightful, engaging and even entertaining coming of age story - and at times it is - this film isn't as brilliant as some critics are making it out to be. As co-written by the director and his brother, Carlos Cuaron, the picture does contain some terrific performances, nearly nonstop sexual material and something of a unique, panoramic view of the Mexican countryside.

Nevertheless, at its core, it's not really much more than a standard road trip flick, albeit one that thankfully breaks away from the Hollywood mold of such pictures. Even so, the picture is accompanied by the usual genre trappings such as an episodic structure, lots of chatting, and eventual character realizations, revelations and growth.

Unfortunately, the abundant yakking often doesn't amount to much more than the usual teen sex romp, and the revelations and developments aren't particularly complex, shocking or hard to predict. In fact, there isn't really much story here, and most of its "depth" comes from the ever-present narrator who drops in character information and exposition as well as trivial matters barely related to the film or its characters.

It's a tactic that's been used in other films (most recently and notably with "Amelie" where it worked brilliantly), but here it feels like tacked-on information designed to reinforce what's otherwise only a moderately interesting and/or engaging picture.

For instance, the fact that the main characters' last names are of historically prominent Mexican figures doesn't really add that much (nor does the men's contrasting social backgrounds), while the details regarding the future of a pack of wild pigs that invade the picture might be amusing, but ultimately are pointless. In the end, most such material does little for the picture other than fooling some viewers and critics into thinking there's more to this film than there really is.

What saves the picture are the performances from the three leads as well as the film's visual style and sense, all of which make the film easy to watch. Two-time Oscar nominee Emmanuel Lubezki's ("Sleepy Hollow," "A Little Princess") cinematography of the Mexican countryside is wonderful to behold and is nearly a character in and upon itself.

The real ones, of course, come from the likes of Gael García Bernal ("Amores Perros," "Sin Noticias de Dios") and Diego Luna ("Ambar," "Un Hilto de Sangre") who deliver terrific takes on their similar yet disparate characters. Although they're not the most likable creations ever to grace the screen, they're certainly compelling, occasionally entertaining, and the young actors effortlessly make them seem completely real.

The same holds true for Maribel Verdú ("Salsa Rosa," "Belle Epoque") who plays the "older woman" who drops into and shakes up the young men's lives. Sexy and funny but also touching, she also delivers a strong performance, even if a very late revelation regarding her character somewhat undermines what occurred before it.

If adult viewers go in with lowered expectations and don't mind the graphic sexual material, they'll probably find that this film offers enough of a different take on the standard road movie, along with the solid performances and a wonderful visual style, that they can overlook the deficiencies of the basic, underlying story. Accordingly, the film rates as a 6 out of 10.

Reviewed April 29, 2002 / Posted May 3, 2002

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