By Paola Martell
When I watched Y tu mamá también for the first time when I was a wanna-be 14 year old film-snob, I thought it was an obscure, sexual film about two guys who manipulate a hot, older woman to take a trip with them. But after watching it this past semester for my Latin American Studies class, I realized that it’s much more than a coming-of-age story about two horny guys. I thought I’d share the essay I wrote because it offers a background and a clearer story about this political film.
The film has a few themes – two of them strongly being sexuality and youth. The opening scene is of Tenoch and his girlfriend, Ana, having sex in her room – assumingly a room she has had since she was a little girl with pink walls and stuffed animals. Tenoch and Julio secretly have sex with their girlfriends in their parents’ homes. It centralizes the idea of young love and how it seems promising, but in reality, it can easily disappear – like the example of their girlfriends promising not to cheat on them when they leave to Europe (but they do). There is a scene where Tenoch and Julio are seen masturbating next to each other on diving boards. They seem confident in their sexual “talents” but are proven that they are just boys who are still trying to figure out how the woman’s body works. Luisa, the older woman, is flirty and attractive, and it’s no surprise that she seduces the boys easily during the trip. Both Tenoch and Julio get excited easily and seem to ejaculate early as expressed in Luisa’s cringing face of surprise and disappointment. The boys seem to act mature and cool, but they constantly argue. It is obvious they are insecure, and they’ll take any opportunity to insult each other. They allow their friendship to collapse after the drunken threesome with Luisa because they were too embarrassed and ashamed of something they stressed out so much. They emphasized their sexuality so much that when they experimented it with each other, they thought their heterosexuality had vanished which is something straight men deal with. They accent heterosexuality so much that it translates to insecurity of it.
Luisa’s character provides a sense of longing. In the beginning of the movie, Luisa visits the doctor who gives her test results, and it isn’t until the end of the movie that they convey what she has – cancer. In the waiting room, she takes a magazine quiz named “Are you a fulfilled woman?” Her result was that she is a woman who is “afraid to claim her freedom.” Her test results of both the doctor’s and the magazine’s makes her realize that she has to finally live her life, and she joins Tenoch and Julio on their trip who plan the trip just to have sex with her. It’s said that during dinners Luisa’s husband’s friends would make her feel less of herself. “I don’t know about those things,” she would say when condescendingly asked about her thoughts on topics. The fact that she always wanted to ask them to name every tooth shows that she held herself back a lot. Jano, her husband, cheats on Luisa, making her cancer harder to deal with since she is shown to be dependent on him for the attention and support she lacks. Though he betrayed her, she still leaves him voicemails advising him not to hate himself and that everything is fine. This expresses her commitment caused by insecurity.
Tenoch’s and Julio’s characters are political representations. Tenoch comes from a wealthy family because his father is a political official relating to economics. He lives in a mansion where his maid has done everything for him since he was born. The story of his maid and how he didn’t bring her up in the car shows that he doesn’t appreciate what he has. Tenoch gives money to Julio for a jukebox and a coin to a homeless person uncompassionately. He takes the bigger bed of the motel showing that the rich just get richer and gain better things easily. Julio comes from a middle class, incomplete family. His sister is an activist, and it’s interesting that Tenoch hates economists and the system, but he is rich and doesn’t take a stand, whereas Julio’s middle class sister does. The social class system is a big part of their friendship. When Julio goes to the restroom in Tenoch’s house, he lights a match to keep it clean. Tenoch lifts the toilet seat with his foot in Julio’s house and in the motel. This expresses the prejudice that people not belonging to the first class receive. When Julio catches Tenoch having sex with Luisa, he admits to having sex with his girlfriend. The betrayal hits Tenoch like when his father was caught in a fraud of contaminated corn. When Tenoch tells Julio about having sex with his girlfriend, the betrayal hits him like when he caught his mother with his godfather in the living room. The affect on Tenoch deals with corruption of corporation whereas with Julio, it is more personal.
The corruption of Mexico’s government is stressed throughout the film. In the beginning sex scene, the moaning is muted and transitions to police sirens. In the wedding, the president, governor and other important political officials are present. The scene is surrounded by body guards. At the end of the wedding scene, the body guards and security are seen together eating food and relaxing – an example of them not doing their jobs properly or at all. It’s said that after the wedding, the president left for a meeting regarding the upcoming elections which shows the lack of dedication and professionalism of political leaders. The Mozote Massacre is referenced as a topic discussed by the president after the wedding. It was an event where a neutral village in El Salvador was massacred of 800 civilians by the army in 1981. A scene where Tenoch and Julio
drive in traffic caused by a worker being hit by a speeding taxi explains that the body took four days to claim. Even the dead have no justice in Mexico. There is a cameo of a mural that translates to “Respecting the rights of other is peace,” this shows the projection of civilians knowing that they lack basic human rights, and they demand change.
The film shows examples of people who are less fortunate but still help the trio. As they travel, a large part of the cinematography is of poor and broken rural areas. Julio compliments a man’s hat, and he gives it to him willingly. The people of the village help them with their broken car. A lady gives Luisa coconut water, and she is also given a bear that is significant to a woman and her mother’s journey to America in search of a better future. These are all signs of lower class people giving and helping others no matter their income.
Life and mortality is also a motif of the film – mainly on Luisa’s part. She never tells anyone of her terminal cancer, and she continues to live life after never living her life to its fullest satisfaction. She asks the boys if they ever wish they could live forever, and the question doesn’t seem as important to them as it does to her. She asks that question not because she wants to be immortal but because her days are limited on Earth, and she’s trying to take it all in; something humans lack or don’t acknowledge much. In her final call to Jano, she says, “You were my life.” Her life orbited around someone when she should’ve been living life for herself. She says life is “like foam, and we should be like the sea,” meaning that life disappears quickly, unexpectedly, and humans should intake as much as we can of it.